WASHINGTON—Ben & Jerry’s has agreed to phase out its use of “All Natural” claims on labels on ice creams and frozen yogurts that contain alkalized cocoa, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, or other ingredients that aren’t natural. The move amicably resolves a dispute arising from a letter that the Center for Science in the Public Interest sent last month to Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever. The letter said that at least 48 products were improperly labeled.
“Ben & Jerry’s is doing the right thing by taking the phrase ‘all natural’ off its labels if the products have factory-made ingredients,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “The Food and Drug Administration could do consumers and food manufacturers a great service by actually defining when the word ‘natural’ can and cannot be used to characterize a given ingredient.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates meat and poultry, lets products be labeled “natural” if they do not include artificial colors or ingredients, or are not more than “minimally processed,” by which the agency means a process that doesn’t fundamentally alter the raw ingredient. But the FDA, which regulates all other foods, has no such definition. It told CSPI several years ago that defining the term was “not among our enforcement priorities.”
When it criticized Ben & Jerry’s misleading use of the word “natural,” CSPI said that none of the questionable ingredients the company used was unsafe (even the tiny amount of partially hydrogenated oil used in the Chubby Hubby flavor is harmless). CSPI also noted, though, that plenty of ingredients that really are “natural” are still bad for your health, such as the artery-clogging cream that is the main ingredient in Ben & Jerry’s ice creams.