- Beyond Pesticides is suing Mott’s for alleged false and misleading “natural” labeling on its applesauce products, according to a press release.
- The suit argues the appearance of residues in the company’s applesauce of the neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid, which is particularly toxic to pollinators, should disqualify the products from being labeled “natural.”
- The plaintiffs also suggest that by using the words “natural” or “all natural ingredients” on its labeling, consumers are led to believe that Mott's applesauce products do not contain synthetic substances.
Mott’s is being sued because Beyond Pesticides says the chemicals were found in its “natural” applesauce, and that should disqualify it from using labels making that claim. The problem here is there’s no clear definition on what “natural” means, and proving that Mott’s, manufactured by Dr Pepper Snapple, is being misleading could be problematic for the plaintiffs.
The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service approves approximately 100,000 product labels each year, but that job has grown tougher because of new phrases like “natural,” “humanly raised” and “grass-fed” becoming more the norm. The government has yet to classify an official designation for these terms, and so it’s like the wild, wild West when it comes to companies using these words on their products. It very well could be that a trace level of a pesticide could be found and the product still be considered natural, but it's hard to know.
Other lawsuits against companies making similar claims haven’t yet come to any clear consensus, either. Lawsuits against Nature Valley and Naked Juice on similar claims are still in the courts, and many others haven’t been decided yet. General Mills also is facing several consumer lawsuits due to claims of "misleading" messaging on cereal packaging.
These lawsuits show the complexities manufacturers face when they try to make nutrition or health-related claims for their products to gain an edge with consumers in a competitive market place. Shoppers have certain expectations for claims like "natural" and "healthy," terms that don't always have officially regulated definitions. It remains to be seen what happens with the Mott's or other lawsuits, but a standard definition would go a long way in helping to clear things up for companies, consumers and critics.