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Lawsuit Alleges That SunChips Are Not "All-Natural"

"All-Natural" SunChips
"All-Natural" SunChips
T. Nguyen

Pleasantly surprised that the SunChips and Tostitos you munched on during the Super Bowl were stamped "All-Natural"? Hopefully, you're not a Pats fan, else you're in for another letdown: a lawsuit filed last week against the chips' manufacturer, Frito-Lay, alleges that the snacks are not all-natural because they contain genetically modified ingredients, including modified corn and oils. The suit claims that the packaging's "All-Natural" claims are deceptive and misleading to consumers who believe they're buying completely natural, non-modified snacks.

According to Reuters, Frito-Lay's "all-natural" chip lines are more expensive than its other, presumably partially natural chip brands, and the lead plaintiff in the case, Chris Shake, paid a premium -- an extra 10 cents per ounce -- for the privilege of eating all-natural chips. Upon a laboratory analysis, however, the chips tested positive for genetic modification.

The complaint explains that such modifications "are created artificially in a laboratory by swapping genetic material across species to exhibit traits not naturally theirs." Had he known the ingredients were genetically modified, Shake claims, he would have kept his dimes and bought cheaper chips instead. If the suit is certified as a class action, the total damages to Frito-Lay may be upwards of $5 million.

And that's just the damages in New York. Shake's lawsuit is modeled after a very, very similar lawsuit filed against the company in California in December. That suit also alleges that the company's "all-natural" claims are fraudulent, misleading and in violation of the state's unfair business practice laws.

Frito-Lay says it complied with all labeling requirements, which do not require food manufacturers to notify consumers when their products are made with genetically modified ingredients.

The company rolled out a huge campaign in 2010 to highlight its "all-natural" brands, saying in its press release that it is "pulling back the curtain and inviting consumers to learn how our products are created, from our kitchen into theirs." With a pit stop in the laboratory along the way, anyway.

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