Food producer settles class action lawsuit involving “all natural” claims for cooking oil made from GM crops.

  • Challenges to “natural” claims continue to proliferate in court rooms across the United States, with many cases targeting “natural” claims for products derived from genetically modified (GM) crops.  FDA’s informal policy is that “natural” means nothing artificial (including artificial flavors) or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in or has been added to a food that would not normally be expected to be in the food.  The policy leaves room for debate over whether products derived from GM crops can be considered “natural.”
  • In a high-profile class action lawsuit challenging “all natural” claims for Crisco cooking oil, the parties now have entered into a settlement agreement to resolve the case.  Although the settlement brings an end to this particular challenge, it does not yield any guiding principles that would eliminate future confusion over the use of “natural” claims for GM-derived products.
  • Earlier this week, FDA surprised many stakeholders by jumping into the “natural” fray and requesting public comment on the meaning of the term.  In its request, FDA specifically posed the question of whether the use of genetic engineering should influence the applicability of “natural” terminology.  It remains to be seen whether, how, and when the confusion over the intersection between GM foods and “natural” foods will be abated.