Frito-Lay sued over “natural” ingredient claims

frito lay logoA woman is suing Frito-Lay, the snack division of PepsiCo, for what she says is deceptive use of the phrase “all natural ingredients” on its packages of products like Tostitos and Sun Chips. Frito-Lay’s products contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), aka corn and vegetable oils, which means that its products are not “natural,” according to the plaintiff. The USDA and FDA do not have criteria in place for use of the term “natural” in food products.

Frito-Lay and other snack food makers have been touting natural ingredients as a way to attract consumers for several years now. Consumers are becoming more aware of the amount and types of ingredients in many processed foods. Rather than develop completely new products, many in the snack foods industry reformulate and reintroduce existing products as “natural” or “healthy.” Frito-Lay, for example, advertised its classic potato chips as “simple,” saying the chips only have three ingredients: potatoes, salt, and oil.

In 2010, Frito-Lay expanded its efforts to provide healthy and simple products. The company announced that half of its product would contain only natural ingredients, meaning no artificial flavors, preservatives, or MSG, by the end of 2011. Frito-Lay then launched the largest integrated marketing campaign in the company’s history. The campaign involved highlighting the ingredients, processes, and supply chains of the snacks.

But this consumer isn’t buying it…at least not any more.

She says the company uses corn and oil from genetically modified crops, which are not naturally occurring. Therefore, Frito-Lay’s products are not natural and its advertising is deceiving consumers. She may be right too, at least in terms of the definition of GMOs. Monsanto, a pioneer in the development of genetically modified crops, defines GMOs as:

“Plants or animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs. In general, genes are taken (copied) from one organism that shows a desired trait and transferred into the genetic code of another organism.”

If the court agrees that GMOs are not “natural,” it will be virtually impossible for Frito-Lay or other snack food makers to claim their products containing soy or corn have natural ingredients. Soybeans and corn are two of the most commonly genetically engineered (GE) crops in the US, according to the USDA. About 94 percent of soybeans and 88 percent of corn is grown from GE seeds.

This could be a devastating outcome for the industry, especially Frito-Lay. The company’s product reformulations to contain only natural ingredients represented the largest product transformation in the company’s history.

Stay tuned to Bizmology for more information about Frito-Lay and food makers’ natural ingredient claims as the case progresses.

 

 

 

Rebecca Mallett

Rebecca Mallett has been researching and writing about companies, industries, and executives as a member of the Hoover’s editorial team since 2007. For the past 5 years, she has focused on the agriculture and food manufacturing, business services, and mining and energy industries as a member of the First Research team. Follow her on Twitter.

Read more articles by Rebecca Mallett.

Comments

  1. Catherine Colbert Catherine Colbert says:

    Would it be so horrible if we returned to “simple” chips with potatoes, salt, and oil? Isn’t that what potato chips are supposed to be?

  2. Rebecca Mallett Rebecca Mallett says:

    I guess if the oil is from genetically modified corn or canola seeds, some people don’t view that as “simple,” or at least not “natural.”

  3. The World Trade Organization has made a preliminary rulnig that European Union restrictions on genetically engineered crops violate international trade rules. The United States, Canada, and Argentina together grow 80 percent of all biotech crops sold commercially, by which the EU regulates such crops. The countries argued that the EU’s regulatory process was far too slow and its standards were unreasonable given that the overwhelming body of scientific evidence finds the crops safe.

  4. Rebecca Mallett Rebecca Mallett says:

    Interesting. Thanks for the update, Ali.

  5. micah drake lucas says:

    That is an argument over the word “natural”…. quit sad. Who is the dictator on what is considered natural?

    thefreedictionary.com/natural
    -Present in or produced by nature

    merriam-webster.com/dictionary/natural
    10
    a : growing without human care; also : not cultivated

    Farmers are not finding the plants naturally. they are harvesting them and putting them in manually. that would make anything manufactured non-natural since they are produced by humans and not nature.

    such a stupid thing to take to court. Ask the latest college of people who decide on the meaning of the word “natural” not the judge. HAHAHA

  6. There is too much un-natural food, we need to stop buying crap from these companies. We are smarter than they think. I have stopped buying corn, kraft dinner, and many other once loved foods that I was ignorant to. Now I know better and so do a lot of others. We share info on whats good, not what these companies are telling us whats good. Chips are out, if it says natural, run!

  7. Micah drake lucas misses the point: ‘natural’ does not have to be defined by an agency of the government or even the courts to retain its etymological root meaning, which was assigned originally by lexicographers before becoming an entry in the dictionary(ies), which are THE authority on meaning, not the courts, gov’t agencies, or any moronic marketers. Natural being defined by Monsanto, the worst violator (by far) in terms of sheer volume of plants genetically engineered has itself indicated that the hybrids are not naturally-occurring. What better authority does a judge need than the inventor?
    Even the gov’t cannot successfully argue against this case simply because they are no authority on anything related to the subject matter.

    Ali, you are correct in what you said. The U.S., Canada and other nations are in too much of a hurry to make money to do the necessary testing to discover whether GMO crops are harmful, whether being used as livestock feed or to feed humans. Three things come to mind immediately. First, Caveat Emptor (‘let the buyer beware’), ancient wisdom which people in a hurry to make billions on the cheap do not heed, to the detriment of all; ‘you are what you eat’ which speaks volumes about the diet of modern homo sapiens as well as the health care crises in the developed world like diabetes, obesity and atherosclerosis; and finally, P.T. Barnum, one of the shrewdest observers of human behaviors the field of marketing ever knew, who said two things which strike at the heart of why people should know the sources of their food: 1. “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” 2. “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
    These are the things most advisable to consider the next time you are shopping for sustenance, and wonder what it is you should be eating (and how much of it), if you want to live a long, healthy life, as opposed to slowly and excruciatingly painfully descending into such poor health that you become dependent upon medications which cost far, far more than healthy, organically-produced food and will eventually bankrupt either your organs of your bank account, only to find out that you must one day choose between eating or paying for your drugs, while you feel worse with every passing day.
    Eat right, eat what Nature produces without help from man(un)kind, eat only animals who have been treated half as good as you would treat your pet dog or cat, and whatever you do, exercise regularly, and most of your life you should be just fine. However, let your tastebuds rule you, and you will rue the day you let something so ridiculously small and easily manipulated ruin your health and shorten your life.
    Simple, but not easy. Easy, but not expensive. Expensive, but not as cheap as you will feel while paying for your poor, uninformed choices with half your lifetime consumed by too many pricey pills, more and more frequent confinement to a hospital bed and and early, ugly (if not painful) death.

    Choose wisely. Do your research. Take responsibility for yourself. Live well.

  8. Ali,

    You must represent the Corporations that knowingly feed their consumers chemicals, pesticides and man-made synthetics for the sake of profit. I live abroad and to be succinct, the products sold on this side of the hemisphere are generally better and safer for consumption. If we as Americans are so up to speed how come their are lawsuits? The FDA just finally acknowledged that PHOs are not GRAS after years of being on the market? How about ethyl-mercury used as vaccine preservatives that people are now realizing causes Autism? As Americans resort to alternative medicine to improve their declining health from these chemicals, they find a Savior in Chinese herbs from herbalists who truly want to cure and not have patients come back on a regularly basis to grow their revolving income. Genetically engineered or altered means it is not natural.

  9. “unreasonable given that the overwhelming body of scientific evidence finds the crops safe”.

    What an incredibly blatant, bold-faced lie THAT is ! ! ! There is absolutely ZERO evidence that GM crops are safe but there is PLENTY of evidence that they are DEADLY !!!

    What kind of monsters enjoy profiting while killing off the population? That is about as low as mankind can stoop. Shame on you, scientists, lobbyists and orchestrators of this fake, evil scam. Is this the legacy your education/contribution to the world will be remembered for? Lying to and murdering others? Which is, in effect, what ‘GM’ is all about …

    While we’re on that topic, let’s go to it’s just-as-deadly and deceitful cousin: ‘Geo-Engineering’ — such a benign term for such sadistic barbary and all that is associated with it. These foods kill from the inside out, yet the wealthy monsters who create them and force them on others dare to call them safe? Those involved in this very real genocide against mankind are literally too pathetic for words.

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