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In another case, the maker of Mission tortilla chips has been sued over its “all natural” claims on bags of its chips, which contain GMO corn.
But rather than rule on the merits of Mission’s claim or the plaintiff’s arguments, U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers gave the FDA six months to make “an administrative determination[ on] the question of whether and under what circumstances food products containing ingredients produced using bioengineered seed may or may not be labeled” as “all natural.”
But I’m wary of both the happy attorneys and the grumpy skeptics (who also happen to be attorneys).
The FDA appears to have spent 10 years thinking about gluten-free labeling only inevitably to botch the final rule. Meanwhile, USDA and FDA decisions to allow producers the freedom to tout their products with GMO-free labeling are highly positive developments.
What should federal regulators learn from these differnt approaches? If the gluten-free saga is any guide, an FDA ruling on “all natural” food labeling would likely take another decade and leave consumers no better off.
Instead, as I wrote last fall, the federal government should “[o]pen up all food labels to any and all statements that aren't demonstrably false.”
What’s demonstrably false? As with claims of fraud, that’s a question for courts to decide.
Certainly, this approach wouldn’t immediately stem the spate of lawsuits like the “all natural” one before Judge Rogers. But it would help establish some precedent upon which to decide future cases. Perhaps most importantly, it would do so without having FDA or USDA bureaucrats define down our food choices. By any label, that’s a worthwhile approach.