Pesticides in Applesauce with ‘Natural’ Labeling Inspires Lawsuit

After years of food safety organizations, including here at CFL, arguing that Big Food’s “natural” labeling was deceptive and misleading to consumers, the campaign has just moved to a new level–though it is questionable how far that effort will make it.

.

Overview: On the table is a new lawsuit filed by Beyond Pesticides, a longtime advocacy organization that monitors and informs consumers about pesticide levels in their food, that contends Motts’ applesauce labeled as “Natural” is misleading to consumers because laboratory testing has demonstrated the product contains toxic pesticides–pesticides that are not only potentially deleterious to well-being, but contain synthetic ingredients that are anything but “natural”.

.

The ‘All Natural’ Issue:  As we here at Chemical-Free-Life.org have warned consumers for years, the so-called “natural” label used by Big Food is meaningless.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has offered no guidelines for this term; there are no boundaries for determining what can and cannot be called ‘natural’ and no rules food manufacturers must follow (What are ‘all natural Cheetos’, anyway?).  Essentially, ‘natural’ or ‘all natural’ on a food label is a made-up term and as CFL founder has warned audiences and clients for a number of years now, “When you see the word ‘natural’ on a food label, think ‘nonsense’.  Because far too often, that is exactly what it is.”

Given the FDA’s lack of guidelines, requirements or regulations surrounding the term ‘natural’ on a food label, it may be pretty difficult to persuade a judge (or jury, if it gets that far) that food manufacturers have, either through intent or negligence, mislead U.S. consumers about what exactly is contained in their processed food product.

.

The Specifics: In the case of Motts’ applesauce, it appears from reading the ingredients labels that they intend to make the distinction for consumers between their ‘original’ product and their ‘natural’ product based on product ingredients.  The ‘original’ applesauce contains high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) (and, in addition to mercury, presumably all of the industrialized and synthetic food chemicals typically used in the manufacturing of HFCS), while their product labeled as ‘natural’ is produced solely with apples and citric acid, sans HFCS.

.

 

 

motts original vs natural

.

The Legal Challenge:  As U.S. consumers who are educated about food chemicals already know, ALL products containing apples that are not explicitly marked as “organic” likely contain synthetic pesticide residue, whether they are labeled, “Original”, “Natural” or “Made from scratch by little green men from Mars”.  Apples sold in the U.S., as enlightened consumers are aware, have made the Dirty Dozen list for produce containing heavy pesticide levels for the past several years.  Given that the “natural” label is a made-up, nonsensical, marketing term with no value other than to entice unenlightened consumers, it will be difficult at best to hold this Big Food manufacturer legally responsible for misrepresenting their products labeled as “natural”.  Attorneys for the Dr Pepper Snapple Group (Mott’s parent company) will likely argue that “Natural” does not mean anything more on a food package than does, “Bigger! Better! Brighter! Whiter!”–and thanks to the FDA’s negligence in this area, they are right.

.

The Problem for Consumers:  Unfortunately, most consumers remain uninformed about the myriad of potentially pernicious synthetic and industrialized chemicals in their food, and neonicotinoid insecticides in their family’s applesauce is no exception.  Understandably, there remains a good deal of confusion among consumers as to the definitions of “organic” and “all natural”.  And this is precisely the reason we at Chemical-Free-Life.org and other food safety advocacy organizations have been arguing for some time now that the FDA has been remiss in not creating mandatory guidelines for the use of terms such as “natural” and “all natural” on food labels.  When it comes to food safety, many consumers assume that the FDA is actually doing their job; it is only reasonable therefore, that when they see the words “all natural” on a food product they erroneously believe that the food includes only natural ingredients. This can be particularly problematic for consumers shopping for children whose immune systems are not fully developed and are more susceptible to adverse health outcomes from synthetic food additives like pesticides.

.

The Potential Outcome:  We wish our colleagues at Beyond Pesticides and their legal representatives at Richman Law Group success in their case to hold Big Food manufacturers accountable for what appears to be a sketchy, manipulative marketing ploy intended to trick U.S. consumers into parting with their money.  Perhaps the idea is that the negative press of the lawsuit combined with the subsequent potential for lower sales and shareholder profit may be enough to force food manufacturers into self-regulating.

.

Alternative Solutions:  Whatever the ultimate outcome of this lawsuit, the public can expect that status quo may continue at the FDA for some time to come.  That means that U.S. consumers will continue to be left on their own to navigate, decipher and second-guess food labels in U.S. grocery stores.  One way to minimize the confusion is to choose only “certified organic” versions of processed food items whenever possible.  Interestingly, Motts also offers a USDA-certified organic version of their applesauce, which makes the “natural” labeling choice even stranger.

.

motts organic2

.

Of course, purchasing organic-only versions is not a viable option for every budget–or every region of the country, so an alternative solution is to pick up a good cookbook or two (used versions are sold online for as little as three dollars) and prepare your own clean, fresh, affordable and better tasting meals and snacks (including applesauce).

And finally, consumers can bootstrap it and put the power of clean food back in their own hands.  This is as easy as (1) educating yourself about the scientific findings for what the chemicals of concern are and (2) learning  where unwanted additives are hiding in your food.


 

Source ; Beyond Pesticides Sues Mott’s for Labeling Pesticide-Laden Applesauce “Natural”