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Nature Valley brand targeted in 'natural' lawsuit

General Mills may be in hot water due to a lawsuit over their Nature Valley brand. The latest "natural lawsuit" leads us to question who is responsible for feeding us unhealthy foods: ourselves or food companies?

And let the “natural” games continue.

Two California mothers are suing General Mills in regards to its Nature Valley brand, according to a recent article in the New York Times. Fed up with deceptive marketing surrounding Nature Valley—depicted in its television commercials, social media efforts, print advertisements and product packaging—the women are fuming over the unnatural ingredients found in the products, such as high maltose corn syrup and maltodextrin, a thickening agent.

They hope to turn the suit into class action.

Indeed, Nature Valley’s Facebook page—with its gorgeous photos of mountains, forests and lakes—looks akin to an Outward Bound brochure. It’s clear that the brand’s goal is to align itself deeply with pure, unadulterated natural ingredients.

After taking a look at Nature Valley’s ingredients, it seems like the original Oats ‘N Honey Crunchy Granola Bars are not horrible. True, they contain straight up sugar, canola oil and soy lechithin that is most likely genetically modified, and natural flavor that is still processed in a lab.

But at least you can pronounce most of the ingredients. In a pinch I eat Oats ‘N Honey—especially when I’m on a long hike where a dose of readily-available sugar is just what I need.  

It’s Nature Valley’s other products that are worrisome. Their Chewy Trail Mix Granola Bars, Granola Thins, Protein Chewy Bars—all contain processed ingredients.

Who's responsible?

In addition to highlighting the need to define empty terms such as “natural”, lawsuits such as these force us to examine who is responsible for feeding us unhealthy foods. On one hand consumers can easily look at the ingredients list. Individuals should educate themselves.

But when advertising is so misleading, can we really place the entire onus on the shopper?

Companies in our industry have demonstrated that manufacturing delicious, healthy products containing good-for-you ingredients is not only possible, but profitable too. (Here are 8 more reasons why you shouldn't lie about "natural" on your label.)

General Mills needs to wizen up, because it's apparent their target consumers sure are.

Should food manufacturers be responsible for deciding what "natural" means, or should consumers determine that for themselves? Share in the comments below.

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