Kashi and Bear Naked products have been promoted as health-conscious breakfast and snack options. But, as a result of a lawsuit, Kellogg, the Kashi and Bear Naked parent company, has agreed to no longer claim or label their products as “All Natural.”
Under a class-action settlement agreement, Kellogg will no longer claim on package labels or in advertising that the Kashi products are “All Natural” and “Nothing Artificial.” In addition, the terms “100% Natural” and “100% Pure and Natural” will no longer appear on certain Bear Naked packaging.
The settlement also includes the establishment of a $5 million fund from Kellogg that will allow consumers to be reimbursed $.50 for packages of Kashi purchased during a specific period. The corporation also settled a related suit against its Bear Naked brand with establishment of a $325,000 settlement fund.
Several lawsuits against Kellogg were merged into a single case, filed in California in 2011. The suits accused the company of false advertising and trying to deceive consumers by labeling products as “All Natural” when they actually contained synthetically produced ingredients and vitamin additives, such as calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride or hexane-processed soy oil.
The settlement still needs to be approved by the federal judge in San Diego who is overseeing the case. The documents, submitted in court last week, contained no admission by Kellogg of engaging in false or misleading labeling.
Kellogg, the world’s number one breakfast cereal maker, is not the only company being challenged today for advertising claims. Chobani, General Mills, and PepsiCo. for its Frito-Lay, Quaker Granola and Naked Juice brands have all come under fire for their advertising and labeling practices:
- Chobani was sued because it claimed to use “evaporated cane juice,” but the lawsuit maintains that was down to hide the sugar content in the product.
- Much like Kashi, the Nature Valley products from General Mills are being challenged about the prominent use of “100% Natural” on their packaging.
- PepsiCo. changed its “Simply Natural” line of Frito-Lay chips to “Simply,” thereby removing the “Natural” claim even though the ingredients didn’t change.
- Similarly, PepsiCo. renamed its “Natural Quaker Granola” was changed to “Simply Quaker Granola.”
- Lastly, PepsiCo. removed the words “all natural” from its bottles of Naked Juice to settle a lawsuit that claimed the juices have artificial ingredients.
Companies have put products on store shelves with the “natural” claims that are loaded with artificial ingredients. While consumer advocates have claimed in lawsuits that the food manufacturers are being deliberatively misleading, part of the issue is the definition of “natural.”
The issue stems from the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not developed a definition for the term “natural” to which products must adhere. On its website, the FDA says it’s difficult to define a food product as natural if it has been processed and is “no longer a product of the earth.” In simpler terms, they maintain that anything that has been cooked or mixed with anything else is no longer “natural.” Historically, the federal agency has not objected to the “natural” label on foods with no artificial flavors, coloring, or synthetic substances added.
Research shows that 77 percent of consumers trust labels that say products are “natural.” So, as exemplified by the Kellogg and Kashi lawsuits, consumer advocates want the FDA to ignore the “All Natural” claims product labels issue no longer. If not, they will continue pressing suits.
By Dyanne Weiss