Frito-Lay taken to court over GMOs

March 1, 2012

Food, Genetically modified

The World Health Organization defines GMOs as “organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.

A class-action lawsuit has been brought against Frito-Lay, alleging that the company misleads consumers when it says its Tostitos® and SunChips® are “made with all-natural ingredients,” although these products contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). (In this case, the GMOs are the oils.) According to the claim, “The reasonable consumer assumes that seeds created by swapping genetic material across species to exhibit traits not naturally theirs are not ‘all-natural.’”

The suit alleges that the claims violate California and federal laws relating to unfair and fraudulent claims. California claimants need not show that they were harmed, only that they purchased the product.

The plaintiff’s lawyer said the FDA had not specifically addressed the issue, but the agency had issued a regulation in 1993 (58 Fed. Reg., 2302, 2407) that using “natural” on a food label is truthful and not misleading when “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.” The FDA’s general position on GMOs strongly suggests, however, that the inclusion of GMOs in a food does not disqualify the “all natural” claim.

The World Health Organization defines GMOs as “organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.”

The lawsuit names only one plaintiff, Julie Gengo of Richmond, Calif., but includes all those who purchased Frito-Lay products that bear the “all natural” label. Last August, the law firm Milberg LLP invited potential litigants to contact them. Frito-Lay North America is a wholly owned subsidiary of PepsiCo, Inc. Pepsi uses genetically modified sweeteners (high-fructose corn syrup) in its soft drinks and does not label them for U.S. consumers.

A GMO-label law has been proposed for the November 2012 ballot in California. reports that Washington State Senator Maralyn Chase has sponsored a new bill that would require both raw GMOs and processed foods containing GMOs to be properly labeled beginning July 2014. Any food product containing GMOs will have to bear a list outlining which ingredients are natural and which ingredients are GMO. Several other GMO labeling bills have also been introduced in the state legislature.


Source: Food Freedom, and

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 31, Number 1, Feb/Mar 2012.

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