The largest food and beverage companies in America, including organic food companies, spend billions of dollars to market products to the public each year. Many of these products are damaging to consumers’ health, though are marketed in a much different light. Some of the most unhealthy food and drink products, for example, are marketed as “natural,” though still contain high amounts of preservatives, sodium and sugar.
Major product categories advertised in a deceptive manner commonly include soda and sweetened beverages, sugary cereals, baked goods, snacks, bread, soup, yogurt, and salad dressing. Under federal and state law it is illegal to engage in deceptive marketing, but while such laws exist, deceptive marketing statutes are regularly violated, mostly due to lack of enforcement.
Joe Lyon is a highly rated Cincinnati lawyer representing plaintiffs nationwide in a wide variety of consumer product cases.
Deceptive food marketing commonly preys on the fear of health-conscious consumers who don’t consider that deceptively healthy terms may appear on the packaging of processed and unhealthy products. Popular food marketing campaigns often use misleading terms like the following:
• Farm fresh
• Naturally sweetened
• Fruit product
Research shows that most American consumers believe organic foods are healthier than food grown using conventional methods. But an increasing body of evidence shows there is no indication that organic foods lead to better consumer health. Moreover, most people assume that an “organic” or “natural” label means that the food was grown without the use of harmful pesticides, though that is not always the case. Most organic farmers do use pesticides and there are roughly 200 non-organic substances food companies can add to food and still call it “organic.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) previously stated that “natural” means “nothing artificial or synthetic, including all color additives.” Unfortunately, this directive from the regulation body is too broad, and there still exist thousands of products on the shelves at supermarkets that are “natural” and “organic,” but ultimately very unhealthy.
Marketing unhealthy products to children is not only unethical, but illegal deception because a child cannot understand how marketing works. One high-profile lawsuit has been filed against McDonald’s directly challenging their marketing tactics to children with their Happy Meals, which include a toy with their fast food.
Children are targets of about 25 percent of the food industry’s advertising budget. Research has shown that children are vulnerable to sugary food advertising, and are unaware that they are even being marketed to. Foods marketed to children are predominantly high in sugar and fat, and ignore any reasonable dietary recommendation. With an obesity problem in the youth today, food companies have a responsibility to refrain from deceptive marketing to the young, vulnerable population.
Yet, food marketers are most interested in youth as current young consumers, and as future adult consumers. Advertisers reach the youth in television advertising, in-school marketing, product placements, and Web sites.
Food and drink companies often mislead consumers with the following deceptive tactics:
Some food companies also add miniscule amounts of nice-sounding ingredients to mask the unhealthy nature of the product. Many juices labeled “100% natural,” for example, can be full of sugar and no more nutritious than a soda. Some low quality juice products contain very little juice at all.
Several lawsuits have been filed recently against large food companies that intentionally deceive American consumers. Most of these claims are brought by private sector attorneys, who fill the protection gap when the governmental agencies fail to act.
If you have been the target of deceptive food or drink marketing, and have questions regarding legal action, contact The Lyon Firm (800) 513-2403.You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.