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Court approves 'natural' settlement in Frito-Lay GMO dispute

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A federal judge last week approved the settlement of more than a dozen class actions that allege Frito-Lay misled consumers by labeling snack foods derived with genetically engineered corn as "made with all natural ingredients." 

The agreement does not offer awards to consumers who may have purchased the products, but the PepsiCo-run company has removed the contested labeling from its Tostitos, SunChips and Bean Dip products.

Frito-Lay has also pledged not to add natural claims to other products containing GE ingredients for the next five years unless such labels are "expressly authorized" by FDA guidance or by state or federal legislation.

The settlement ends litigation that began in late 2011 when a California resident filed suit against Frito-Lay, alleging the company's use of "natural" was misleading because the products are made from GE corn.

The litigation grew to include an additional 12 class actions and was consolidated before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. U.S. District Judge Roslynn Mauskopf approved the settlement on Nov. 14 and the deal includes some $2.1 million in attorney fees and court costs.

"The complexity, expense and likely duration of the litigation favor settlement," Mauskopf said, adding that the agreement provides the class of consumers "substantial benefits on a much shorter time frame than otherwise possible."


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