ConAgra Foods is facing two class action lawsuits that claim the marketing of its Wesson cooking oils as “100% natural” and "pure" is misleading because the oil is extracted from plants that have been genetically modified (GM).
The two lawsuits, one filed in Los Angeles and the other in Brooklyn, seek millions of dollars' worth of refunds for consumers who bought products in ConAgra's Wesson range of cooking oils, as well as a court order preventing the company from labeling the oils as natural. The oils concerned include Wesson-brand corn oil, canola oil, Best Blend and vegetable oil.
According to the complaint, labeling the oils "100% natural" is misleading because GM plants are "unnatural", as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO says: "Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally."
ConAgra does not explicitly state that its Wesson-brand cooking oils are derived from genetically modified plants. However, the complaints point to a section on the ConAgra corporate website regarding biotechnology, which they claim implies that the oils are extracted from GM crops.
The website states: "Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the FDA have concluded that biotech foods that are approved for human consumption are as safe and nutritious as other foods that are developed through more conventional methods...Ultimately, consumers will decide what is acceptable in the marketplace based on the best science and public information available. We will continue to listen carefully to our customers and consumers about biotechnology and provide alternatives for those who demand products without biotechnology ingredients."
No one at Wesson Oils responded to a call for comment prior to publication.