Thursday, December 04, 2014

Cargill Can Still Call Truvia Natural

A court in Hawaii has approved a settlement between Cargill and a series of plaintiffs alleging it misled shoppers by marketing its Truvia consumer products (which contain stevia extract Reb-A and erythritol) as ‘natural’ for $6.1 million.

The lawsuits allege that Cargill misled shoppers by marketing its Truvia tabletop sweetener as ‘natural’ as the Reb-A steviol glycoside it contains is "highly chemical processed" and the bulking agent (erythritol) is “synthetically made”.

Cargill manufactures Truvia's synthetic erythritol in a patented process by first chemically extracting starch from GM corn and then converting the starch to glucose through the biochemical process of enzymatic hydrolysis. The glucose is then fermented utilizing moniliella pollinis, a yeast."

Here's the dumbfounding thing: under the settlement, Cargill does not admit liability, and still reserves the right to call Truvia a ‘natural sweetener' or 'Nature’s Calorie-Free Sweetener'. However, it has agreed to make changes to its labeling and marketing. Cargill agreed to:

  • Put a notice on its label directing consumers to the Truvia website for clarification about how the ingredients are made.
  • Clarify its “Nature’s Calorie-Free Sweetener” and “Truvia Natural Sweetener provides the same sweetness as two teaspoons of sugar” statements by adding an asterisk inviting consumers to look at the FAQ page of its website so they "can fully understand how the product is made and why Cargill believes it is natural".

The settlement was not huge victory for the plaintiffs. The settlement in this case runs contrary to the view that labeling misleads consumers by allowing 'natural' claims to continue while relegating 'substantive' labeling changes to asterisks that direct consumers to the FAQ section of Truvia’s website.

Cargill already did its job and gained huge market share with its false label claims. $6.1 million is nothing to them because they already have their shelf space and loyal customers, and at the same time forced wonderful, natural brands like Sweet Leaf off the shelves.

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