A complaint (Cox v. Gruma Corporation, No. 12-6502) filed on December 21, 2012, by Elizabeth Cox, argued that Gruma had made “false and misleading statements that are likely to deceive reasonable consumers” by describing Mission Tortilla chips as ‘all natural’, “when in fact they are not because they contain GMOs in the form of corn and/or corn derivatives”.
With respect to the use of the term ‘natural’ on food labels, the FDA published non-binding guidance in 1993 saying natural means that “nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in the food”.
But this did not clarify the status of foods containing HFCS, GMOs and a raft of other ingredients that many stakeholders believe do not belong in a product labeled as ‘all-natural’.
In a “tentative ruling” on a case filed by Elizabeth Cox vs Gruma Corporation over ‘all-natural’ claims on Mission tortilla chips, judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers agreed with the plaintiff that there is a “gaping hole in the current regulatory landscape for ‘natural’ claims and GMOs”.
However,she disagreed with Cox’s claims that this matter would be best decided by a jury in California, adding that “deference to the FDA’s regulatory authority is the appropriate course”.
Therefore, she added, “the court is inclined to order that this action be stayed for six months and referred to the FDA for determination of whether products containing GMO or bioengineered ingredients may properly be labeled ‘natural’ or ‘all natural’.”