We kick off our gallery with a look at ‘all-natural’ claims - which some larger companies are now pulling away from - in part owing to the threat of legal action, and in part because some food marketers feel the phrase no longer resonates in the way that it used to.
(Click HERE for some industry views and HERE for data from Mintel, which says around 13% of new food and beverage products launched in the US still make natural claims - but predicts this figure will go down next year.)
As for the all-natural lawsuits, none have gone to trial (yet). But several high-profile defendants from Trader Joe’s, Pepsi and Cargill to General Mills, Pop Chips, Kashi and ConAgra have decided to settle - without admitting liability - to avoid the “expense, inconvenience and burden” of protracted litigation.
The settlements all involved labeling changes - although in Cargill’s case (it recently signed a $6.1m agreement to settle multiple lawsuits over all-natural claims on its Truvia sweeteners), it still gets to call the stevia & erythritol-based products at issue ‘all-natural’ (click HERE).
FDA still has bigger fish to fry
So are we any closer to a legal definition of ‘natural’ that would help clarify things for shoppers and stem the tide of lawsuits?
Probably not. Despite renewed calls for clarity on this issue from judges handling these cases as well as advocacy groups such as the CSPI, the FDA remains reluctant to walk into this particular minefield. In a letter sent to three judges at the beginning of the year, the agency noted that “in a world with limited resources”, it had more pressing priorities relating to “public health and safety matters”.
However, it has made it clear that it is at least monitoring the use of the term, telling a baker in a recent warning letter that leavening agent sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP) doesn’t belong in products making ‘all-natural’ claims, even if they are USDA certified organic.