It is no secret that some advertisers believe that using the term “natural” is an effective way to advertise a product. Some consumers seem to prefer these “natural” products for a variety of reasons, even while no one (particularly the Food and Drug Administration) has set forth an accepted definition of what “natural” actually means. Not surprisingly, the lack of defined standards for “natural” offers significant litigation opportunities for plaintiffs to file suits (usually class actions) claiming they were misled by the “natural” advertising into purchasing products that are not, in fact, “natural.” The year 2013 saw many of these cases, and defendants tested the lawsuits through motion practice. Defendants often argued: (1) that the FDA has “primary jurisdiction” over the advertising, and (2) no reasonable consumer would be misled by the term “natural.” The mixed success of these arguments suggests that courts are changing their attitudes toward “natural” allegations. In fact, by the end of 2013, the very lack of a “natural” definition that opened the door to this kind of litigation was turned into a defense that successfully dismissed several cases.
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