Two class action lawsuits have been certified by the United States District Court for the Southern District of California against "natural" product companies accused of misleading consumers with false claims of "100% Natural" or "Nothing Artificial" ingredients.
The court ruled that the plaintiffs adequately proved that some of the “natural” ingredients were in fact synthetic.
Kashi Co. and its subsidiary Bear Naked Inc. are at the center of the controversy. Kashi was purchased by Kellogg's in 2000 but remained independently operated until March 2013.
The suit states that Kashi and Bear Naked products were found to contain Alpha-Tocopherol Acetate and Hexane-processed soy ingredients. Hexane is listed as a federal hazardous pollutant and was identified as a toxic contaminant by the California Assembly in 1993.
Kashi is a leader in the multibillion-dollar natural foods market and has tried to carve out an identity as a nutritional, environmentally conscious brand.
However, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit hope to show that Kashi deceptively inserts synthetic, artificial material in its food products, inflating prices of the snacks by duping consumers into believing the products lack any artificial ingredients.
Kashi “inserted a spectacular array of unnaturally processed and synthetic ingredients into its so-called all-natural products,” the plaintiffs said.
As a result of their false and misleading labeling, defendants were able to sell these products to hundreds of thousands of consumers throughout the United States and to profit handsomely from these transactions.”
Bear Naked, which makes a line of granolas, granola bars, cereals, cookies and trail mixes, labeled products as "100% Natural" despite containing potassium carbonate, glycerin and lecithin. These are all recognized synthetic chemicals or ingredients under federal regulations.
Kashi and Bear Naked both deny allegations of wrongdoing and assert their labels were truthful and consistent with current federal law. The trial is set to begin in both lawsuits on February 11, 2014.