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Investing in Organics Ain't Natural

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's All About Organics Page and our The Myth of Natural Page.

Although the courts have differentiated between free speech claims of individuals and corporate speech of companies, businesses still have wiggle room when they claim their products are "best," which really means they're no worse than other superior-placed products.

When everyone's product is equally good, then they are all "best." Just be careful if you claim your product is "better," because that could mean you're saying your product is really "best." And some feel the claims of products being "all-natural" is giving companies similar wiggle room too.

Arizona Bottling, maker of the popular Arizona Iced Teas, just beat back a class action lawsuit over claims its drinks aren't "all natural" because the drinks contain high-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS,and citric acid. The court said those filing the challenge didn't show a "scintilla of evidence" for their claims. Several years ago Cadbury relented in its claims that its 7-Up soda was "natural" when it was threatened with a lawsuit because it contained HFCS.

But other lawsuits progress. Unilever's (NYSE: UL) ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's is under attack for including genetically modified ingredients in its "all natural" desserts, as is Campbell Soup  (NYSE: CPB) , which faces criticism for GMOs appearing in its "100% Natural" soups. General Mills (NYSE: GIS) is also in court because its Nature's Valley division markets its granola bars and "thins" as being natural, but they contain high-maltose corn syrup and maltodextrin, which the plaintiffs charge are highly processed and don't even exist in nature.

While hyperbole in advertising may be tolerated by consumers, corporations jumping on a bandwagon and flogging their products with whatever's hot these days ends up creating a backlash.