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General Mills settlement forces company to stop using 'all natural' claims on dozens of granola bar products


General Mills

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(NaturalNews) General Mills is no longer able to use the "100% Natural" label on dozens of their products, thanks to a settlement reached between the food giant and four consumers who filed lawsuits over the label's misuse in 2012.

In their complaints, consumers alleged that General Mills "deceptively described Nature Valley products as '100% Natural,' 'All Natural,' or 'Natural' because they contain high fructose corn syrup, high maltose corn syrup, and maltodextrin and rice maltodextrin."

General Mills denies liability yet removes "natural" labels on 30 products

While General Mills "denies any and all liability," in order to avoid the expense and inconvenience of a drawn out court battle, the company agreed to stop using the natural labels on 30 of their products, most of them being Crunchy Granola Bars.

Protein Chewy Bars, Granola Thins Crispy Squares, Chewy Trail Mix Bars and a Chewy Yogurt Variety Pack are among some of the products included in the agreement that was reached through mediation on November 7.

General Mills agreed not to use the natural label on the products outlined in the settlement [PDF] if they contain more than 0.9 percent of any GMO ingredients. Products also cannot be labeled natural if they contain the following ingredients:
  • Calcium carbonate - a calcium supplement containing starch made from GMO corn
  • Corn syrup - a food syrup made from GMO corn
  • Dextrose monohydrate - a corn syrup based sweetener containing starch made from GMO corn
  • Glycerin - a sweet substance added for taste and to retain moisture in foods that is sometimes made from GMO rapeseed
  • High fructose corn syrup - an industrial food product made from GMO corn
  • Maltodextrin - a food additive known to contain hidden MSG (monosodium glutamate)
  • Sodium bicarbonate - baking soda containing GMO ingredients that is used to make dough rise
  • Soy lecithin - an ingredient made from GMO soy that helps keep chocolate smooth and together
  • Soy protein isolate - a dry powder food ingredient made from GM soybean plants
  • Tocopherols - an ingredient derived from vitamin E that is commonly made from GM soy, corn or cotton crops
Many of the ingredients listed above have been linked to health complications, according to recent studies.

"Natural" label goes completely unregulated by the FDA

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), "natural" is difficult to define in foods because it's processed and is no longer a product of the earth. The agency does agree however, that the term should not be used if foods contain added color, artificial flavors or any other synthetic substances, but this is merely an opinion and not an intact regulation.

Growing awareness and demand for cleaner foods has sparked an interest in foods labeled "natural," prompting big food companies to slap the label on their products without altering the ingredients.

In 2008, the "all-natural" label was the second most used claim on American food products. A 2012 study found it to be the most popular label. About 25 percent of consumers answered that "100% natural" was the best description found on a food label, according to grist.org.

Today, many look for the USDA certified Organic label, as well as the non-GMO project label; however, "all-natural" is still a popular choice for consumers.

Popular food brands forced to fight hundreds of lawsuits over misuse of "natural" label

An estimated 100 lawsuits has reportedly been filed from 2011 to 2013 against popular food brands over their use of natural labels, according to The Wall Street Journal. PepsiCo, Campbell Soup, Ben & Jerry's, Kashi and Skinnygirl have been targeted for incorrectly using all natural labels.

Sources:

http://cspinet.org

http://www.gmo-compass.org

http://gmoinside.org

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com

http://www.austradeinc.com

http://www.gmo-compass.org

http://grist.org

http://www.fda.gov

http://online.wsj.com

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