June 27, 2013
Authored by: Brandon Neuschafer
In what is being billed as the first settlement of a class action suit alleging that the use of an “all natural” claim is deceptive where certain ingredients contain GMOs, Barbara’s Bakery Inc. has agreed to pay $4 million to the plaintiff class. The case, brought in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, centers around Barbara Bakery’s cereal and snack products manufactured with GMO ingredients. Under the settlement, class members may be eligible for refunds of up to $100 each, and Barbara’s Bakery agreed not to use marketing claims such as “all natural” in the future where products contain GMO ingredients. Barbara’s Bakery also agreed to eliminate GMO ingredients from many of the products at issue in the lawsuit, which elimination would need to be verified by the third party Non-GMO Project.
Litigation over use of marketing claims such as “all natural” or “100% natural” has increased significantly over the past few years. While plaintiffs originally focused on ingredients not found in nature or that had been heavily processed, a recent focus of suits concerns ingredients found in nature, such as corn or soy, that were themselves produced through the use of genetic modification. Neither FDA nor USDA has required or prohibited labeling regarding GMO content, so many consumers (and their class action counsel) are turning to the courts and asserting claims under consumer protection laws.