Ben & Jerry's, once a small Vermont dairy operation known for its all natural ingredients, is stripping the claim "all natural" from its packaging under pressure from consumer advocates who pointed out some components of the ice cream that simply don't exist in nature.
Just last month, the Center for Science in the Public Interest re-ignited a several year old push for Ben & Jerry's - now a unit of the massive European conglomerate Unilever - to stop making the claim.
"Natural" is one the many terms that routinely appear on food labels with questionable meaning since only one of the two food regulating federal agencies has defined the term. The Food and Drug Administration hasn't regulated the use of the term and the Department of Agriculture's interpretation only applies to meat and poultry.
"Ben & Jerry's is doing the right thing by taking the phrase 'all natural' off its labels if the products have factory-made ingredients," CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said in a statement. "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."
Ben & Jerry's CEO Jostein Solheim in a letter to Jacobson wrote that while he thought consumers were getting what they believed they were and that the company believes in using natural ingredients, the claim would be dropped.
"We don't want there to be any questions about our 'All Natural' claims," he wrote. "Therefore we have decided to remove these claims and focus more strongly on our core values."
Among the ingredients in question in many Ben & Jerry's products: synthetic vanilla, corn syrup and alkalized cocoa.
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