Mass torts suit says 'natural' beverage is synthetic

As the Food and Drug Administration tightens rules on the information food and beverage packages must include, more Tennessee consumers are paying attention to the labels of the products they purchase for their families. Those who do so are typically looking for the counts of certain ingredients, such as sodium, calories or sugar, or they are looking for an overall quality of healthfulness. Unfortunately, not all labels are trustworthy, and one company is now facing mass torts actions because of confusing language on its product's label.

If a manufacturer wants to promote its product as organic, the product has to meet specific FDA definitions. No such definitions are in place for words like "natural," although one would expect such a label to mean the product contains nothing synthetic. This is the complaint in a class action lawsuit currently pending against the company that manufactures LaCroix sparkling water.

Labels for the water's many flavors tout its natural essence, claiming to be 100 percent natural. However, the complaint alleges that the drink contains such ingredients as limonene, linalool propionate and linalool. While these ingredients can be created synthetically for use in insecticides and other non-food products, they can also be naturally extracted from plants for food flavorings. The lawsuit claims the all-natural beverages contain the synthetic form of the flavorings, which are supposedly safe in small quantities but should not qualify as natural.

While the two sides argue about the definition of the term "natural," the underlying principle may be that consumers in Tennessee and beyond have a right to know the truth about the products they purchase, especially when those products are food, drink and medicine. Deceptive labeling can result in harmful effects. Those who suffer those effects have the right to seek legal advice for deciding the best course of action, including the use of mass torts claims.

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