ConAgra is no stranger to false ‘natural’ advertising claims. The company’s most recent brush with litigation concerns Alexia frozen potato products.
In a class action lawsuit filed by consumers, it was asserted that certain Alexia frozen potato products advertised as “natural” or “all natural” contained the ingredient disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate to retain the color of the potatoes. Although ConAgra denies that it falsely advertised its products, they have “chosen to provide its customers with a cash payment and/or vouchers for free products rather than spending additional money on costly litigation.” The ConAgra/Alexia settlement follows a trend of food companies settling false ‘natural’ advertising claims.
ConAgra changes formula to be actually ‘natural’
In a double win for consumers, in addition to the money settlement, ConAgra has agreed to use citric acid or other naturally-sourced compounds rather than disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate in Alexia products. However, the settlement also states that ConAgra can use disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate if in the future the FDA determines that products containing the preservative can be labeled ‘natural.’
This is a great example of self-regulation spurred by a class action lawsuit. Clearly, it was of marketing value for ConAgra to maintain the ‘natural’ positioning of the Alexia brand. To that end, in the absence of regulatory monitoring, a food company has chosen to impose higher standards upon itself. In this way, ConAgra, like Barbara’s Bakery and others, deserve to be applauded.
Consumers who bought Alexia frozen potato products have until November 27, 2013 to submit a claim.