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Suit Over ConAgra's "All-Natural" Claims Could Open Food Litigation Floodgates
A class action law suit which has been filed against food giant ConAgra for labeling its cooking oils as "All-Natural" could open the floodgates to litigation against many food companies which make "Natural," "All-Natural," or "100%-Natural" claims
Prof. Banzhaf was the architect of a law suit against McDonald's, over claims that its french fries were cooked in 100% pure vegetable oil, which forced the company to pay a $12.5 million settlement, and triggered a growing number of fat law suits; ten of which have already been very successful. http://banzhaf.net/
"Many state consumer protection laws permit recovery for claims which might be deceptive or misleading even if only to uneducated people, and even if the claims are technically true," says Banzhaf, noting that McDonald's claim about its french fries wasn't false. He also notes that such laws often permit law suits and large financial recoveries even if no plaintiff can show that he suffered any actual harm.
There are many "all natural," "natural," or "100%-Natural"
* Kix cereal, Wesson oil, Pam spray, and Frito Lay chips all claim “100% Natural” on their packaging, but allegedly contain GMOs.
* "100% orange juice, not from concentrate"
* Many so-called “All-Natural”
* Minute Maid's Cranberry Apple Cocktail contains added citric acid, which the FDA says disqualifies it from claiming to be all natural
* Many popular "All-Natural"
Indeed, reportedly about 70% of processed foods - from soda to soup, crackers to condiments - contain ingredients which come from GMOs, and many nevertheless make claims that they are "all-natural,"
In the successful class action against McDonald's, it was alleged that McDonald's claim that its french fries were "cooked in 100% pure vegetable oil" was technically true, but misleading because it failed to note that they were pre-cooked in beef fat. But the amount of beef fat in the fries was so small that it would add virtually no health risk, so that the great majority of customers probably didn't care.
In the ConAgra case, however, 90% of all Americans care about foods coming from GMOs, as indicated by the fact that they want such products to be labeled.
While failing to label such food products as coming from GMOs may not by itself create legal liability, falsely labeling them "All-Natural,"
The growing number of fat law suits led Fortune magazine to suggest, in a cover story, that "fat is the next tobacco" in terms of litigation targets by public interest as well as other attorneys. If so, says Banzhaf, perhaps "all-natural"
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Creator, Banzhaf Index of Voting Power
2000 H Street, NW, Suite S402
Washington, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418
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John F. Banzhaf III is a Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University Law School [http://banzhaf.net/]