Can GMO Frito-Lay Products Be Labeled Natural? Judge Will Decide

If you pay attention to food labeling discussions, you probably already know that a “natural” label means nothing. That doesn’t keep companies like Frito-Lay from using it, however. Despite the fact that they’re riddled with GMOs, you’ll find the “all natural” label on Frito-Lay products like Tostitos, Sun Chips, and Fritos Bean Dips. 

Disagreement over whether or not it’s OK for foods labeled “natural” to be GMO has landed Frito-Lay in court. Entities in multiple states have filed suit against the snack giant for allegedly deceptive labeling practices.

Initially, the company wanted the GMO case dismissed, or at least put on hold, so that the FDA could decide whether the all-natural label is accurate. US district Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf, who’s handling the Frito-Lay GMO case, disagreed, saying “she will not refer the matter to the FDA, as her counterparts have done in similar cases vs Gruma Corp and General Mills.”

In the past, the FDA has taken months and even years to define labeling terms and requirements, often opening the process up to public comment. “The issues of fact in this case are, in fact, ‘within the conventional experience of judges’,” stated Mauskopf in a written ruling. “Frito-Lay’s request to dismiss, or stay, this action for the FDA to address whether foods containing bio-engineered ingredients may be labeled ‘natural’ is unwarranted.”

Unfortunately, along with the company’s request for dismissal, Judge Mauskopf also dismissed many claims made by the plaintiffs, including all claims against Pepsi-Co, Frito-Lay’s parent company, and claims of intentional misrepresentation.

Image: austinboardman