April 30, 2012 Articles

Confusion in Court over "All Natural" Claims

Costly litigation will continue until the FDA finally defines the term.

By Dawn Goulet

The American consumer faces a dilemma in the grocery aisle. On the one hand, we’ve been taught that foods high in sugar, fat, and cholesterol are bad for us. In the past few decades, a whole new industry was developed to market reduced-fat and artificially sweetened diet foods. Consumers could literally have their cake and eat it too. In recent years, however, processed foods, including many popular diet foods, have been criticized for containing chemicals, artificial colors, preservatives, flavor enhancers, and other indescribable, unpronounceable, and sometimes unimaginable ingredients. In a growing trend, consumers have begun to seriously question whether processed foods are good for them.

The result? Anyone walking the aisles of a grocery store today can see that “all natural” products are big business. Advertisers steer consumers toward foods advertised as natural, organic, and simple, feeding on consumers’ growing fear that they do not really know what they are eating or feeding to their families. But are these products really better? In the 2002 bestseller Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser, author and investigative journalist, admonished readers, saying “If they have to put the word ‘natural’ on a box to convince you, it probably isn’t.” Fuel has recently been added to the controversy by the latest war between big sugar and the artificial-sweetener industry and a slew of recent class-action lawsuits.

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