Ben & Jerry's Backs Off 'All Natural' Claims

SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT — In the wake of a complaint filed by an advocacy group, Ben & Jerry's will remove the phrase "all natural" on its products that contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil and other questionably natural ingredients.

According to a report from The Guardian:

Ben & Jerry's mission statement trumpets an aim to make "the finest quality, all-natural ice-cream and euphoric concoctions" and to promote business practices that "respect the earth and the environment". But the firm has come under fire from the Washington-based Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which took issue with ingredients such as alkalised cocoa and corn syrup as well as partially hydrogenated soya bean oil.

The pressure group contended that the ingredients had either been chemically modified or did not exist in nature: "Calling products with unnatural ingredients 'natural' is a false and misleading use of the term."

In an abrupt about-turn, Ben & Jerry's has agreed to remove the term from its product descriptions. In a letter to the CSPI, the ice-cream company's chief executive, Jostein Solheim, said that although he believed "reasonable customers" would still consider Ben & Jerry's food to be natural, he did not want any further questions over the issue.

"We have decided to remove these claims and focus more strongly on our other core values," wrote Solheim, citing endeavours to use fair-trade suppliers, cage-free eggs and milk from family farms that do not use bovine growth hormones.

Although the CSPI's complaint didn't lodge a greenwashing charge against Ben & Jerry's for the use of "all natural," the move comes as governments and consumers are growing more aware of false marketing claims, in health as well as environmental areas.

Earlier this month, the FTC laid out it's plans to tackle greenwashing in advertising, and a business group in Chicago published a guide to help small businesses avoid greenwash. And earlier this year, Seventh Generation chief Jeffrey Hollender wrote about the rise of greenwashing in advertising. Seventh Generation itself was the target of a recent greenwashing claim lodged by Procter & Gamble.

Photo CC-licensed by Shoshanah.