July 27, 2012 — Two mothers have filed a lawsuit against General Mills, the company that sells Natural Valley granola bars, for false advertising. They allege that the “100% Natural” slogan is deceptive because the products contain three highly-processed ingredients: maltodextrin, high fructose corn syrup, and high maltose corn syrup. The mothers are attempting to turn their case into a class action lawsuit, and also force General Mills to give up profits from the line of granola bars.
One of the mothers who filed the lawsuit is Amy McKendrick. After her six-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a variety of severe psychiatric conditions (anxiety, early onset bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder), Ms. McKendrick decided to stop feeding her daughter all foods containing dyes, additives, or processed ingredients. Ms. McKendrick says the diet worked, mostly. Her daughter was cured of all conditions except some residual anxiety. Upon investigation, Ms. McKendrick discovered that the “100% Natural” Nature Valley granola bars she had been feeding her daughter actually contained processed ingredients. She filed a lawsuit against General Mills for false advertising.
As public interest in “organic” and “natural” foods has increased, so has the number of products advertised with these claims. Unfortunately, many consumers do not realize that there is a difference between “organic” and “natural.” While organic products are held to strict government regulations, the requirements for “natural” foods are far less strict.
The controversial ingredients in Nature Valley granola bars are high fructose corn syrup, high maltose corn syrup, and maltodextrin (which is a thickener derived from food starch, usually from corn). Although the ingredients are derived from a natural source (corn), they are not found in nature, and they are highly-processed before they are used in food. The processing creates an ingredient that is a very simple, highly-digestible sugar carbohydrate.
The lawsuit, which was filed in California, claims that “General Mills seeks to capitalize on consumers’ preference for all-natural foods and the association between such foods and a wholesome way of life.” Furthermore, “General Mills seeks to capitalize on consumers’ preference for all-natural foods and the association between such foods and a wholesome way of life.”
General Mills removed high fructose corn syrup from most Nature Valley products back in 2010. However, the maltodextrin and high maltose corn syrup remained. General Mills is currently facing several major false advertising lawsuits — including for Cheerios, which were advertised as a cholesterol-lowering heart-healthy food, and for Fruit Roll-Ups and Fruit Snacks, for the “made with real fruit” claim.
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