Associate Dawn Goulet Published in Spring 2012 CADS Report
Wexler Wallace associate Dawn Goulet’s article on the growing number of class action cases filed in relation to advertising claiming that foods are “All Natural” was recently featured in the Spring 2012 edition of the CADS Report, the quarterly newsletter published by the ABA Section of Litigation’s Class Action and Derivative Suits Committee. Excerpted below, the article discusses recent efforts by class action plaintiffs to have courts interpret the phrase “All Natural”—something the federal Food and Drug Administration has declined to do for decades.
The article also compares the advertising claims in these cases to ones currently being litigated by the big players in the sugar and artificial sweeteners industry.
The American consumer faces a dilemma in the grocery aisle. On the one hand, we’ve been taught that foods high in sugar, fat, and cholesterol are bad for us. In the past few decades, a whole new industry was developed to market reduced-fat and artificially sweetened diet foods. Consumers could literally have their cake and eat it too. In recent years, however, processed foods, including many popular diet foods, have been criticized for containing chemicals, artificial colors, preservatives, flavor enhancers, and other indescribable, unpronounceable, and sometimes unimaginable ingredients. In a growing trend, consumers have begun to seriously question whether processed foods are good for them.
The result? Anyone walking the aisles of a grocery store today can see that “all natural” products are big business. Advertisers steer consumers away from processed foods and toward foods advertised as natural, organic, and simple, feeding on consumers’ growing fear that they do not really know what they are eating or feeding to their families. But are these products really better? In the 2002 bestseller Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser, author and investigative journalist, admonished readers, saying “If they have to put the word ‘natural’ on a box to convince you, it probably isn’t.” Fuel has recently been added to the controversy by the latest war between big sugar and the artificial-sweetener industry and a slew of recent class-action lawsuits.
Ms. Goulet’s article and the full publication are available to Section of Litigation members on the ABA’s website. (What Cases About “All Natural” Labels Mean for Marketing, CADS Report, Vol. 22, Spring 2012).
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