A growing number of food and beverage makers are quietly dropping "natural" and "all-natural" claims from their labels and marketing as a result of proliferating lawsuits challenging such claims,
reports The Wall Street Journal
Attorneys told WSJ
that at least 100 suits -- most filed on behalf of consumers seeking class-action status -- have been filed in the past two years challenging the natural claims of dozens of brands, including
Unilever's Ben & Jerry's, Kellogg's Kashi, and Beam Inc.'s Skinnygirl alcoholic beverages.
Natural claims have proved powerful marketing tools: Foods bearing these claims generated more
than $40 billion in U.S. sales (second only to foods with "low fat" claims), according to Nielsen.
But food makers' use of the natural claim has generated increasing controversy, because
the Food and Drug Adminstration has never established a formal definition of the term.
In September, three Congressional representatives introduced
a Food Labeling Modernization Act that would define
common claims such as "natural" and "healthy," as well as create a single, federal, standard front-of-package label and require greater disclosure of sugar and caffeine content.
the outcome of that proposal is likely not to be clear for some time, in the meantime, lawyers told WSJ that food and beverage companies are pulling back from the natural claim because the risks now
outweigh the benefits.
According to Datamonitor, just 22.1% of food products and 34% of beverage products launched in the U.S. during 2013's first half claimed to be natural, down from
30.4% and 45.5%, respectively, in 2009.