General Mills produces a granola bar brand called Nature Valley, all crunchy and oat-y with claims like “100 percent natural” on the box and on its website. But a team of women in California aren’t too happy that, and are launching a class action lawsuit against General Mills on the basis that its Nature Valley granola bars aren’t exactly all-natural after all.
According to the New York Times, the lawsuit claims that General Mills has engaged in false advertising and anticompetitiveness for claiming that its Nature Valley products are “all-natural” while containing three questionable ingredients: maltodextrin (a chemical thickener), high maltose corn syrup, and our old friend high fructose corn syrup. Because those materials are highly processed, the lawsuit asserts that Nature Valley bars themselves are in turn processed and can’t really be called natural:
“I’ve figured out now that something can say it’s 100 percent natural on the outside and not be 100 percent natural,” [plaintiff Amy] McKendrick said. “I want to make sure other people making purchases understand that, too.”
According to the report, the class action lawsuit stems in part from McKendrick attempting to eliminate processed foods from her young daughter’s diet and being surprised to find processed ingredients lurking nonetheless behind “100 percent natural” box labeling.
Of course, one could say that the lawsuit hinges on your definition of the word “all-natural.” Those high fructose corn syrup advertisements that come courtesy of the Corn Refiners Association are happy to argue that HFCS is totally natural (and fine in moderation), while advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest tells the Times that the very fact that high fructose corn syrup and maltodextrin aren’t found in, well, nature indicates that they are not all-natural ingredients at all.
But “all-natural” is such an ambiguous term, isn’t it? Unlike the term “organic,” which implies adhering to fairly rigorous standards, none of that is really necessary to label something as natural. But if this proves to be a trend rather than a one-off occurrence, with consumers increasingly vocalizing their disatisfaction with the disconnect between the label and the nutritional facts, the production industry could do well to think about implementing some kind of “all-natural” standards, if only to make sure that their customers are getting exactly what they bargained for.
[SOURCE: New York Times]