Their comments came after judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers concluded that “deference to the FDA’s regulatory authority is the appropriate course” in the Elizabeth Cox vs Gruma Corp class action over ‘all-natural’ claims on Mission tortilla chips.
In an order on the case published yesterday, she added: “The court hereby refers to the FDA, for an administrative determination, the question of whether and under what circumstances food products containing ingredients produced using bio-engineered seed may or may not be labeled ‘Natural’ or ‘All Natural’ or ‘100% Natural’.”
Rogers, who had hinted she might take this course of action in a tentative ruling last month, went on to stay the action for six months, but added that this period “may be extended... upon a showing of good cause, including an indication from the FDA that it intends to resolve the issue”.
Finally, she said that Gruma’s motion to dismiss the case is “granted with respect to primary jurisdiction only, and is otherwise denied without prejudice to re-filing upon an order dissolving the stay ordered herein”.
Gruma attorney: 'This will provide clarity for manufacturers and the public'
Gregory Huffman, a partner in Thompson & Knight LLP's Dallas office representing Gruma, told FoodNavigator-USA that his client was "pleased that the federal court ruled in our favor".
He added: "Gruma hopes that the FDA will take this opportunity to provide clarity to manufacturers and the public about the labeling of bio-engineered foods."
While the FDA has not shown any inclination to come up with a legal definition of 'natural', or provide further guidance on its appropriate use, the key issue in this case relates to GMO labeling, a matter in which the FDA has held a pretty consistent position over the past 20 years, he claimed (see below).
Lawyer: 'Other courts should hold off on the GMO/all natural cases until the FDA decides whether to act'