A Frito-Lay lawsuit asserts some of the company's "all-natural" claims are misleading, and the proof is in the genes.
Frito-Lay's so-called "all-natural" Tostitos and SunChips actually contain ingredients made from genetically modified plants, the lawsuit alleges. A New York man filed the suit, which is seeking class-action status and damages estimated to exceed $5 million, Reuters reports.
Frito-Lay, owned by PepsiCo, charges consumers about 10 cents more per ounce for its allegedly "all-natural" Tostitos and SunChips, the lawsuit contends. But scientific tests revealed the "all-natural" chips contained corn and vegetable oils derived from genetically modified plants.
Consumers who were misled by Frito-Lay's labeling deserve compensation, the Frito-Lay lawsuit suggests.
"Since a reasonable consumer assumes that seeds created [by genetic engineering] are not 'all natural,' advertising Tostitos and SunChips as natural is deceptive and likely to mislead a reasonable consumer," the lawsuit asserts, according to Reuters.
The Frito-Lay lawsuit is likely based on a theory of tortious misrepresentation -- when a person is somehow hurt by relying on false or misleading information conveyed by a product's manufacturer. A plaintiff's recovery doesn't depend on a product defect, but rather the manufacturer's allegedly misleading communication.
If the "all-natural" claim is shot down, Frito-Lay still may not be required to disclose the allegedly gene-altered ingredients. Currently, foods containing such ingredients do not have to be labeled, according to the Food and Drug Administration. But the Center for Food Safety has petitioned the FDA to change that rule, The Wall Street Journal reports. The petition is under review.
This week's Frito-Lay lawsuit is the second to accuse the company of deceiving customers by labeling chips as "all natural." A similar suit was filed in federal court in California in December.