A leading meat producer has been sued over “natural” claims on deli meats
Challenges to “natural” claims continue, with many cases targeting “natural” claims for products containing synthetic ingredients or preservatives. As previously covered on this blog, FDA is considering whether to regulate the term “natural”. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which regulates meat and poultry, currently has in place an informal policy on “natural” which permits USDA-regulated products to be labeled “natural” when the product does not contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, chemical preservative (as defined in 21 C.F.R. 101.22), or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient; the policy also provides that the product and its ingredients cannot be more than minimally processed.
On October 11, 2016, a class action lawsuit was filed against Hormel Foods Corp. alleging that it includes synthetic ingredients and preservatives in deli meat labeled as “100% Natural” or “No Preservatives”. This lawsuit comes on the heels of another “natural” lawsuit filed against Hormel by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Public Justice, and the Richman Law Group filed in the District of Columbia Superior Court on June 30, 2016. That lawsuit alleges that certain of the company’s natural products are derived from food animals treated with additives, hormones and antibiotics. Hormel contends that its “natural” branded products are produced, labeled, and marketed in conformance with all applicable laws and regulation.
Assuming the products at issue do not run afoul of current USDA policy on “natural”, the lawsuit may face an uphill battle if the claims and labels themselves were specifically approved by USDA.