Frito-Lay Class Action Lawsuit Challenges Tostito, Sun Chips All-Natural Claims

PepsiCo, which owns Frito-Lay, is facing a Frito-Lay class action lawsuit that challenges the all-natural claims it has made for its Tostito and Sun Chips products.

According to Bakery and Snacks, the claims mislead consumers about these products, which contain genetically modified corn and vegetable oils. The class action lawsuit was brought on behalf of Julie Gengo in California’s Central District Court.

The lawsuit alleges that Frito-Lay is misleading consumers into believing that its Tostitos and SunChips products are “made with all-natural ingredients” despite that they contained genetically modified oils, wrote Bakery and Snacks. “The reasonable consumer assumes that seeds created by swapping genetic material across species to exhibit traits not naturally theirs are not ‘all natural,” the claim said.

According to the claim, California and federal laws concerning unfair and fraudulent claims have been violated. The claim was filed in California because, although the case can be tried in any state, California claimants are not required to prove that they were harmed, simply that they purchased the product, said Bakery and Snacks.

Although Frito-Lay’s position is that it is in compliance with regulatory requirements, the plaintiffs’ attorney said that damages for a successful claim in this case could run into tens of millions of dollars, wrote Bakery and Snacks.

Misleading food labels are not only illegal, they have had a hand in the growing problem of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, among other problems, in the United States due to false claims and confusing nutritional information.

We previously wrote that POM Wonderful LLC, maker of trendy pomegranate drinks, was sued by federal regulators working to end advertising that makes false health claims. That lawsuit was filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FCC) and both the FTC and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) have been working on the cleanup of false ads in which food products are hyped as medicinal and curative.

While companies such as Nestle SA and Kellogg Co., have amended their claims following agency warnings, POM refused, filing a lawsuit against the FTC claiming the agency’s prescreening of its ads is prior restraint, violating its First Amendment free-speech rights. Nestle agreed to this screening by the FDA when settling with the FTC.

Popular tortilla maker ”Mission Foods” also had to defend itself against a consumer lawsuit claiming it was misleading consumers over trans-fat content in its products by using terms such as “all natural” for its spicy bean dip and “guacamole” for a dip that contains fewer than two percent avocado powder and no avocado, according to a Los Angeles federal judge’s ruling.

We also previously wrote that the FDA sent warning letters to 17 food makers, advising them to correct misleading label claims. Among the foods cited was POM pomegranate juice. In all, 22 food items were cited for violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

That action followed an October 2009 statement by Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret Hamburg, M.D., encouraging companies to review product labeling to ensure compliance with FDA regulations, and that statements be truthful and not misleading.

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