Quantcast

Frito-Lay Sued for Labeling Its GMO-Filled Snacks as 'All Natural'

GMO

Food Freedom

By Rady Ananda

Less than a year after Frito-Lay announced plans to make half their products without “any artificial or synthetic ingredients,” the $13 billion company was sued last week in federal court for fraudulently marketing the snacks that contain genetically modified ingredients.

Somehow, “artificial” and “synthetic” doesn’t include “genetically modified” in Frito’s mind.

In its April 2011 Seed-to-Shelf disclosure campaign, Frito-Lay promised to inform consumers about each individual snack’s ingredients, even setting up an app for smartphone users to swipe the product’s barcode and read about it. Ann Mukherjee, Frito-Lay’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said, "What better way to share the story behind Frito-Lay snacks than by giving consumers a look inside our Flavor Kitchen to see first-hand the all natural ingredients and real foods that inspire the products we make?”

Real foods? All natural? Even Monsanto defines genetically modified organisms as unnatural, which the lawsuit quoted, “Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)—plants or animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs.”

The World Health Organization agrees, defining 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, California, but includes all those who purchased Frito’s products which bear the “ALL NATURAL” label. Last August, the law firm Milberg LLP invited potential litigants to contact them.

Though Gengo holds a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering, she earns a living as an independent marketer for such organizations as Berkeley Playhouse/Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, Vital Systems, Bay Area Green Tours, Oxfam America and Slow Money Northern California. She describes herself as “an ongoing environmental, and healthy foods advocate.”

In early 2009, she wrote Genetically Modified (GM) Foods‚ Another Reason to Buy Organic, warning people that Frito-Lay uses GMOs. According to the complaint, since 2007, she regularly bought the company’s Tostitos and Sun Chips believing they were “all natural” as indicated in advertising and on the package.

On Dec. 20, Frito’s Naturally Delicious webpage still boasted: “All Frito-Lay snack chips made with natural ingredients start with all-natural corn or potatoes and healthier oils. For our flavored LAY’S®, TOSTITOS® and SUNCHIPS® products, we are using all natural seasonings that don’t have artificial or synthetic ingredients.”

But because they contain GMOs from genetically modified corn and genetically modified soy, in five separate counts, plaintiff charges Frito-Lay with fraud, deception, unfair competition and false warrants under several laws including the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

Based in New York City and specializing in class-action lawsuits on behalf of investors and consumers, Milberg LLP also has offices in Los Angeles, Tampa and Detroit. Founded in 1965, the firm now employs about 75 attorneys.

After two successful class action suits against military contractors Raytheon and General Electric, in 2006 Milberg was the target of a criminal probe by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The firm and some of its partners were indicted on 20 criminal counts including bribery, racketeering and fraud. The DOJ press release alleges the firm participated “in a scheme in which several individuals were paid millions of dollars in secret kickbacks in exchange for serving as named plaintiffs in more than 150 class-action and shareholder derivative-action lawsuits.”

Four of Milberg LLP’s partners served time in prison, and the firm paid $75 million in fines before the DOJ dropped the matter, reports Wikipedia.

Frito-Lay North America is a wholly-owned subsidiary of PepsiCo, Inc. Though Pepsi uses genetically modified sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup) in its soft drinks, it does not label them for U.S. consumers, adhering to the U.S. regulator policy of hiding GMOs from the public.

In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed rules banning GMO labels. Despite government policy of keeping GMO food ingredients secret from the public, citizens are advancing toward requiring full disclosure.

  • House Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) recently introduced H.R. 3553, the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act and H.R. 3554, The Genetically Engineered Safety Act, which would prohibit the open-air cultivation of genetically engineered pharmaceutical and industrial crops.

  • The Frito-Lay lawsuit was initiated in California where a GMO-label law has been proposed for vote in the November 2012 election.

  • In Ohio, a district court overturned the ban on labeling milk as free from artificial hormones last year. The FDA approves the genetically modified additive, which has been linked to cancer and lower milk quality. Developed by Monsanto, rBGH is banned in Canada, the European Union, Japan and Australia.

For more information, click here.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By George Citroner

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and the World Health Organization currently recommend either 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (walking, gardening, doing household chores) or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise (running, cycling, swimming) every week.

But there's little research looking at the benefits, if any, of exercising less than the 75 minute minimum.

Read More Show Less
Mary Daly, president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, poses for a photograph. Nick Otto / Washington Post / Getty Images

It seems the reality of the climate crisis is too much for the Federal Reserve to ignore anymore.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Passengers trying to reach Berlin's Tegel Airport on Sunday were hit with delays after police blocked roads and enacted tighter security controls in response to a climate protest.

Read More Show Less
A military police officer in Charlotte, North Carolina, pets Rosco, a post-traumatic stress disorder companion animal certified to accompany him, on Jan. 11, 2014. North Carolina National Guard

For 21 years, Doug Distaso served his country in the United States Air Force.

He commanded joint aviation, maintenance, and support personnel globally and served as a primary legislative affairs lead for two U.S. Special Operations Command leaders.

But after an Air Force plane accident left him with a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and chronic pain, Distaso was placed on more than a dozen prescription medications by doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Read More Show Less
(L) Selma Three Stone Engagement Ring. (R) The Greener Diamond Farm Project. MiaDonna

By Bailey Hopp

If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Preliminary tests of the bubble barrier have shown it to be capable of ushering 80 percent of the canal's plastic waste to its banks. The Great Bubble Barrier / YouTube screenshot

The scourge of plastic waste that washes up on once-pristine beaches and finds its way into the middle of the ocean often starts on land, is dumped in rivers and canals, and gets carried out to sea. At the current rate, marine plastic is predicted to outweigh all the fish in the seas by 2050, according to Silicon Canals.

Read More Show Less
Man stands on stage at Fort Leonard Wood in the U.S. Brett Sayles / Pexels

Wilson "Woody" Powell served in the Air Force during the Korean war. But in the decades since, he's become staunchly anti-war.

Read More Show Less
Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa on Nov. 8. Matt Johnson / CC BY 2.0

By Julia Conley

Joined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Friday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders held the largest rally of any 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to date in Iowa, drawing more than 2,400 people to Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs.

Read More Show Less