A law suit recently filed in California alleges that manufacturers’ claims that stevia is ‘all natural’ are in fact untrue
The claim was filed by plaintiff Kevin Anderson against Jamba Juice in relation to its ‘all-natural’ smoothie kits. Anderson argues that Jamba Juice’s ‘all-natural’ smoothie kits deceive consumers because they contain ‘unnaturally processed, synthetic and/or non-natural ingredients’.
Jamba Juice’s initial response was that its ‘all-natural’ claims are fully in compliance with relevant FDA guidelines.
The law suit alleges that the use of chloroform or hexane in processing dried stevia plant leaves belies manufacturers’ claims that stevia is ‘natural’, and that stevia includes such unnatural substances as ascorbic acid, citric acid, xanthan gum and steviol glycosides.
Claimed damages are in excess of $5 million.
The stevia industry has responded by pointing out that the processing methods complained about – using hexane or hydrochloric acid, for example – are not used by major stevia suppliers, and that all agricultural ingredients, from whatever source, require some form of processing prior to them appearing in consumer food goods.
Commentators say that in the absence of a widely accepted definition of ‘natural’, endorsed by major food standards agencies, claims such as the one filed against Jamba Juice are likely to continue to proliferate.
In August 2010 a California law suit was filed against Kashi and its parent company Kellogg, claiming that virtually all Kashi products are falsely and misleadingly labelled as ‘all natural’ or containing nothing artificial even though the products allegedly do not conform to applicable federal regulations and policies on ‘natural’.
In January this year, a case was filed in New York against Frito-Lay claiming that the company misleads consumers with the claim its popular Tostitos and SunChips products are made with ‘all-natural ingredients’. The complainant alleged that Frito-Lay products contain GM materials which are not ‘natural’. A similar case was filed previously in California.
With the EU’s recent approval of the use of stevia and the market poised to grow rapidly, this kind of legal claim means manufacturers will need to weigh the potential benefits and risks of an ‘all natural’ claim.
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