The Cornucopia Institute, a consumer watchdog and proponent of “familyscale farming,” has reportedly filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), alleging that an Oregon-based cereal maker is misleading consumers with its “all natural” product claims. According to the institute, Hearthside Food Solutions, which makes Peace Cereal, labels its products as “natural” and then states on its Website that “natural foods are foods without pesticides or artificial additives, as well as being minimally processed and preservative-free.” Noting that the federal government has not adopted a definition of or requirements for “natural” food products, the Cornucopia Institute alleges that by using conventionally grown food ingredients, Hearthside is selling products routinely sprayed with pesticides and herbicides.
Peace Cereal was apparently certified organic in the past, but has not been since 2008. Yet, according to the Cornucopia Institute, stores in several states continue to carry “organic” signs on shelves containing non-organic Peace Cereal and mislabel as organic bulk bins with Hearthside’s non-organic granola. Cornucopia’s co-director Mark Kastel said, “We view this company as a ‘bad actor.’ This company is clearly trying to profit from the good name and reputation of organics, and exploiting consumer trust.” The institute calls on FTC to investigate the claims, saying the company is falsely implying to consumers that its products, often higher priced than organics, are organic. Studies have reportedly shown that consumers are confused about the “natural” label. See Cornucopia Institute Press Release, February 18, 2011; Portland Press Herald, March 8, 2011.