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‘All Natural,’ My Foot, Hummus-Lovers Claim

MANHATTAN (CN) - Tribe Mediterranean Foods claims to make its hummus with chickpeas, tahini, spices and "love," but the purportedly "All Natural" product also contains GMOs, a New Yorker alleges in a $5 million lawsuit.

Sarah Magier, who says she has bought their products for four years, sued Tribe in Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday on behalf of "millions" of consumers of the company's 10 "All Natural" varieties.

They are: Classic, Forty Spices, Spicy Chipotle, Spicy Red Pepper, Sweet Roasted Pepper, Mediterranean Style, Mediterranean Olive, Roasted Garlic, and Zesty Spice & Garlic.

"For years, defendant has prominently and conspicuously labeled and advertised the mislabeled Products as 'All Natural,'" the 29-page complaint states. "The labeling on the mislabeled products communicates a straightforward and material message: Tribe hummus is 100% natural and, therefore, does not contain any artificial or synthetic ingredients."

Magier says that she paid a "tangible increase" on Tribe products because of this pitch.

A closer look at the label, however, shows that all of the varieties contain pure canola oil and citric acid, she says.

In addition, she notes, the labels for the roasted garlic, roasted red pepper and everything varieties show that they have potassium sorbate.

All of those ingredients contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, according to the lawsuit.

Canola oil is "so heavily processed that it no longer bears any chemical resemblance to the rapeseed from which it is sourced," the complaint says.

The lawsuit describes the rapeseed's journey at length through the processes of hexane extraction, chemical refining, bleaching, deodorizing and conditioning.

Likewise, citric acid derives from genetically-modified sugar beets and corn, and the Food and Drug Administration "specifically warned" that this preservative not be labeled as "All Natural," the lawsuit says.

The FDA also urged against this labeling for products containing potassium sorbate, another preservative, Magier says.

The class alleges nine counts against Tribe, including violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and New York General Business Law; breaches of express and implied warranty; negligent and intentional misrepresentation; unjust enrichment, and fraud.

Their lawyer Joshua Arisohn, from the Manhattan-based law firm Bursor & Fisher, P.A., said in a phone interview that the uptick of cases of this kind shows that consumers are becoming more knowledgeable.

"Consumers obviously have a right to know what's in their food," he said.

The Courthouse News database shows that at least nine lawsuits from coast to coast have challenged companies including Kellogg, J.M. Smucker, Popcorn Indiana and others for labeling products with GMOs as all-natural over the past three years.

Dozens of other cases relate to genetically modified organisms in general.

A federal judge in San Francisco forced GM to face claims for GMOs in its Nature Valley products last year.

Tribe did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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