General Mills has agreed to stop using the word “natural” on its food products that contain synthetic ingredients. The change to labeling comes after the multinational corporation reached a settlement agreement over a lawsuit filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
CSPI first approached General Mills in 2005 over labeling issues on ingredients in the Nature Valley family. The company eventually phased out some of these controversial ingredients including high-fructose corn syrup, which had been labeled as “natural.”
But by 2012, when General Mills had not removed all of the artificial ingredients in its Nature Valley products, CSPI filed the lawsuit over the ingredients high-maltose corn syrup and maltodextrin, which are not naturally occurring ingredients.
“CSPI’s litigation director Steve Gardner said he considers the settlement agreement a victory for consumers striving to maintain healthy lives, pointing out that it takes regulation of food marketing and advertising a step further than the Food and Drug Administration has expressed a willingness to go,” reports ThinkProgress.
“No acceptable official definition of ‘natural’ should allow the claim on highly processed ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup or maltodextrin, substances that literally do not occur in nature,” Gardner said in a press release. “But as long as there is no definition, companies will still recklessly make the claim, and consumers will continue to be deceived.”
General Mills is just one of dozens of companies that have faced legal repercussions over lax use of the word “natural” to describe foods that include genetically modified, synthetic and otherwise artificial ingredients. According to ThinkProgress, a University of Houston study released earlier this year revealed widespread consumer confusion and a “false sense of health” in products mislabeled with words such as “natural” when the product contained no significant health benefits.
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