A Florida woman has filed a class action lawsuit against Gruma Corp., the maker of Mission tortilla chips, accusing the company of deceiving customers with its “all natural” claims even though the chips contain GMOs.
Plaintiff Nichole Griffith alleges in the class action lawsuit that Gruma misleads its customers by promising that its Mission tortilla chips are natural even though they are allegedly made with genetically modified corn. She claims that Gruma’s “’all natural’ statement prominently placed on the Products’ packaging and/or labeling is false, misleading, and likely to deceive reasonable consumers.”
Griffith’s class action lawsuit follows a California federal judge’s decision to stay a similar action while the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) determines whether products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be marketed as “natural.”
“The product is simply not ‘All Natural,’ and it would be unreasonable for defendant to contend otherwise,” Griffith says in the class action lawsuit. “Genetically modified corn products contain genes and/or DNA that would not normally be in them, and that cannot be achieved through traditional crossbreeding, and are thus not natural, thereby causing the product to fail to be ‘all natural.’” She claims that Gruma knew, or should have known, that its products contain genetically modified ingredients.
In her class action lawsuit, Griffith points to a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in which the court held that naturally occurring DNA sequences cannot be patented, establishing a legal distinction between natural and unnatural items.
“Because naturally occurring genes cannot be patented, it follows that genes that can be patented are not naturally occurring. Accordingly, because GMO seeds can be and are patented, they cannot be ‘natural’ and Defendant’s Products containing GMO ingredients are not properly labeled as ‘All Natural,’” Griffith argues.
Griffith says that, had she known that the Mission tortilla chips contained GMO corn, she never would have purchased the products, especially not at the premium price. Instead, she relied on Gruma’s representations that the chips were “all natural” and assumed that they did not contain GMO ingredients.
By filing her class action lawsuit, she seeks damages to be determined at trial, but no less than the difference between the premium price the class members paid for the Mission tortilla chips and the market value of the products.
In her class action lawsuit, Griffith asserted violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and unjust enrichment. She claims that Gruma intended to deceive the general public into believing that its Mission tortilla chips were “all natural.” She argues that reasonable customers would not expect a product that is advertised as “all natural” to contain GMOs, and that Gruma intends to mislead consumers with this statement.
Potential members of the class action lawsuit include all Florida residents who purchased Mission tortilla chips since August 2009.
Griffith is represented by Joshua Harris Eggnatz of the Eggnatz Law Firm.
The Mission Tortilla Chips Class Action Lawsuit is Griffith v. Gruma Corporation, Case No. 9:13-cv-80791, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
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