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Ben & Jerry’s to phase out natural claim after CSPI complaint

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 28-Sep-2010

Ben & Jerry’s has said it will phase out use of the words ‘all natural’ on its ice cream and frozen yogurt labels after a complaint from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) last month.

CSPI had claimed that ingredients used in some of Ben & Jerry’s ice creams were not natural, objecting to maltodextrin, corn syrup, alkalized cocoa and partially hydrogenated soybean oil, among others.

Ben & Jerry’s CEO Jostein Solheim responded in a letter to CSPI: “We are confident that Ben & Jerry's products are 'All Natural' as reasonable consumers would understand that term. However we don't want there to be any questions about our ‘All Natural’ claims."

He added that the company intends to focus on marketing other core elements of the brand, such as animal health and welfare, and using suppliers that work for social justice.

“Ben & Jerry’s is doing the right thing by taking the phrase ‘all natural’ off its labels if the products have factory-made ingredients,” said CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson.

The Food and Drug Administration, which oversees about 80 percent of the US food supply, does not regulate use of the word ‘natural’.

Jacobson said: “The Food and Drug Administration could do consumers and food manufacturers a great service by actually defining when the word ‘natural’ can and cannot be used to characterize a given ingredient.”

‘Natural’ was the top label claim on new food and beverage products launched last year, according to market research organization Mintel. According to its Global New Products Database, 23 percent of new products carried a ‘natural’ label claim in 2009.

CSPI said that although it had questioned Ben & Jerry’s use of the word ‘natural’, none of the ingredients mentioned was unsafe.

“Even the tiny amount of partially hydrogenated oil used in the Chubby Hubby flavor is harmless,” it said.

“Whether or not Ben & Jerry’s uses an ‘All Natural’ claim, we will continue to use the most natural ingredients we can find,” Solheim concluded in his response letter to CSPI.