What’s in a Label? Everything

After a week’s vacation, I returned to my desk Oct. 15 and read through the past week’s editions of Today in Food to refresh myself on what I had missed. Immediately, I found a common thread in our Washington section: class action lawsuits focused on labeling.

Specifically, take a look at these stories:

  • A potential class action lawsuit alleges Barilla pasta sauce is deceptively marketed as having no preservatives. The suit claims the addition of the preservative citric acid nullifies the “no preservatives” claim, reported Legal Newsline (Oct. 12).
  • A proposed class action lawsuit claims The Hershey Co.’s Brookside dark chocolate products deceive consumers into thinking the candies do not contain artificial flavoring. According to the complaint, the packaging on the products intends to give consumers the impression they are buying a premium product with only natural flavoring, instead of a product that contains artificial flavors, reported Legal Newsline (Oct. 11).
  • A lawsuit filed against Kraft Heinz alleges its Crystal Light brand failed to disclose artificial flavor ingredients on the front label. The suit maintains the beverage brand conveys its fruit-flavored drinks contain natural fruit juices, when the products actually are artificially flavored with malic acids, reported Legal NewsLine (Oct. 11).
  • A lawsuit filed against Neurobrands LLC alleges the beverage maker failed to identify a synthetic ingredient on its front labels. The suit claims the company labeled its neuroSONIC Energy Refreshed superfruit infusion, neuroBLISS white raspberry and neuroPROTEIN watermelon mint products, which contain malic acid, as having only natural flavors, reported Legal NewsLine (Oct. 11).
  • A class action lawsuit was filed against National Beverage Corp. over “all natural” and “100% natural” claims. According to the filing, LaCroix contains a number of artificial ingredients, including linalool, despite being labeled as natural, according to a lawsuit filed by Beaumont Costales.

Artificial flavoring, deceptive marketing and fraud, oh my.

Each of the cases pivot around a consumer belief that a product is “all natural,” “100% natural” or “natural” that may be supported by marketing and labeling, but not science.

This is important because consumers are increasingly looking for products with “all natural” and “100% natural” claims: grocery shoppers are increasingly demanding transparency and a closer connection to their food, according to a September report from FMI and Label Insight. Seventy-five percent of shoppers reported being more likely to switch to a brand that provides more in-depth product information beyond what’s on the label compared with just 39% in a 2016 similar study. In addition, 54% of shoppers are even willing to pay more for a product with additional product information.

Food producers would be remiss to ignore this trend, especially considering the pending arrival of new labeling laws. FDA extended the compliance dates for the Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts label final rule and the Serving Size final rule until 2020 for larger manufacturers and 2021 for smaller businesses, but now is the time to start planning for this change.

Luckily, the Food Institute has you covered. At this year’s U.S. Food Labeling Seminar, hosted by The Food Institute and OFW Law, new content has been added to give attendees a more comprehensive overview of food labeling and a deeper dive into solving labeling problems. The event will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018 from 9:00 AM-5:00 PM at the Newark Airport Marriott in Newark, NJ. Bruce Silverglade, Principal at Washington, DC-based firm OFW Law, which specializes in the agriculture, food and drug industries, will cover the new Nutrition Facts Label, the basics of food labeling, mandatory label information, country of origin labeling, authorized claims, menu labeling, enforcement by FDA, other authorities and class action cases, and future developments.

To learn more about the seminar, click here.