Wesson cooking oil's "100% Natural" label claims have led parent company, ConAgra, to face two separate class action lawsuits over the misleading use of the word "natural."
The suits, filed in Los Angeles and Brooklyn, are attempting to refund millions of dollars in purchases of Wesson products including canola oil, corn oil, vegetable oil and blended oils. The suits are also seeking a court order that would prevent Wesson from using the word "natural" on any of its products.
The controversy over the claims that the Wesson oil products are natural arises from the use of genetically modified ingredients in their oils. The definition of genetic modification according to the World Health Organization is: "organisms in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally."
According to the Brooklyn complaint, ConAgra "engaged in this misleading and deceptive campaign to charge a premium and take away market share from other similar products." While the total amount of refunds sought in the Brooklyn case has not been disclosed, the Los Angeles lawsuit refunds sought are estimated to total more than $5 million.
There are currently no federal guidelines in the U.S. for labeling genetically modified ingredients, and Wesson made no efforts to clarify the source of their ingredients either on food product labels or on its website. ConAgra alleges there is wording on the ConAgra website indirectly acknowledging their use of bioengineered ingredients in many of its products, which includes Wesson, stating that the EPA and FDA have concluded the use of genetically engineered foods are safe for human consumption.
In a statement about the suits, ConAgra said, "We don't comment on pending litigation, but we don't believe the case has merit and we stand behind our labeling."
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image: The Murky Fringe