Class Action Over Crisco May Stick to Smucker's


     SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) - Smucker's cannot trash a potential class action alleging that it mislabels Crisco Oil products as "all natural," a federal judge ruled.
     In a federal complaint earlier this year, Diane Parker claimed the J.M. Smucker Co. deceives consumers by labeling Crisco Pure Vegetable Oil, Crisco Pure Canola Oil, Crisco Pure Corn Oil and Crisco Natural Blend Oil as "all natural."
     She said the oils are actually made with genetically modified (GM) crops, and are "so heavily processed that they bear no chemical resemblance to the ingredients from which they were derived."
     Parker, who hopes to represent a class of oil purchasers, said it would be impossible for Smucker's oils not to contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients because "70% of U.S. corn, over 90% of U.S. soy, and over 80% of U.S. canola crops are GM."
     The California resident also claimed that Smucker's tricks consumers "into buying products they otherwise would have avoided, whether due to health concerns or mere preference" because products with an "all natural" label are perceived to be "better, healthier, and more wholesome."
     Smucker's used standing and federal pre-emption as a basis to dismiss the amended class action. The Ohio-based retailer said Parker had failed to provide enough evidence that the oils contained genetically modified ingredients, and that her claim conflicted with both Federal Drug Administration policies on bioengineered foods and federal food labeling regulations.
     U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti shot the challenge down Friday, finding that Parker had shown it was "more than a sheer possibility" that the oils contain genetically modified ingredients.
     Claims of federal pre-emption also failed to stick.
     "Various parties have repeatedly asked the FDA to rule on 'natural' labeling, and the FDA has declined to do so because of its limited resources and preference to focus on other priorities," Conti wrote.
     The action makes no mention of Smucker's other products, such as ice cream toppings and peanut butter.