If it tastes too good to be true, or at least “natural,” it probably is.
A class-action lawsuit against the makers of Kind snack bars claiming their “non-GMO” and “natural” labeling is false and creating unjust enrichment is currently pending in federal court. Plaintiffs claim that “Pressed by Kind” and “Fruit Pieces” packaging convince the consumers that their ingredients are whole unsweetened fruit, though they are actually processed with sugar prior to the dehydration process.
Suit Stayed Until FDA Issues Guidelines
The suit has been on hold for over two years, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) works to issue relevant guiding principals defining “natural” on food labels. Plaintiffs recently urged federal judges to unfreeze the lawsuit and allow it to move forward, but there has been no judicial response, since the FDA still has not issued new guidelines. The FDA is notorious for neglecting deadlines when it comes to labeling. It has taken over nine years, going years past established deadlines, to create adequate cancer warning label guidelines for cigarette packaging, and it still has yet to create them.
Past Run-Ins Between Kind and the FDA
In 2016, Kind and the FDA battled over use of the word “healthy” on its packaging. Though the FDA originally told Kind that it had to pull the word off the packaging, it later reversed its decision, allowing Kind to use “healthy” in relation to its “corporate philosophy,” not as a nutrient claim.
What’s with all the arguing about “healthy,” “natural,” and “non-GMO” on packaging? Society has been told time and time in again in the past few decades to read the label on foods so you know what you’re eating. But that warning had some unintended consequences: manufacturers were, in effect, using the ingredient list and surrounding areas of the label as advertising. And now labeling guidelines are working double-time, yet falling behind schedule, to keep up with a changing food-pyramid system and consumers’ increasing demand for transparency.
As soon as the FDA issues guidelines for using the term “natural”, this class action will be unfrozen and move forward on its merits. The deadline for issuing these guidelines was August 15, 2018. Perhaps this lawsuit will resume any day … or maybe not …
If you feel that your food packaging is misleading or untruthful, contact a local consumer protection attorney. A seasoned lawyer can listen to the facts of your case, and determine if you have an action for which to move forward, or perhaps a class action to join.