On October 1, 2018 fans of the sparkling beverage, LaCroix,
were horrified when it was released that the beverage’s parent company, Natural
Beverage Corporation, was being slapped with a lawsuit for false labeling
claims. A class action lawsuit has been filed, stating that the beverage
company has misled consumers by claims to be “natural”, when in fact the drinks
contain synthetic ingredients. These ingredients have been identified as
limonene, linalyl proprionate, and linalool (which is an ingredient used in
What does the science say?
Once I read about this lawsuit, I immediately knew had to
look further into this and do some research on what kinds of insecticide ingredients
I have been pouring down my throat on a routine basis for the last few years. The
majority of the information I found was through PubChem, the National Institute
of Health’s database for chemical compounds. What I found was:
Linalool is a naturally occurring substance found in a multitude of different plants (including mint and citrus peel). Within consumer products, it is commonly used as a flavoring agent in food and also as a fragrance in various cosmetics. It is a component of Lavender oil, as well as other essential oils.
It is true that linalool is an ingredient found within insecticides, however, human toxicology studies showed that linalool at concentrations up to 20% were NOT found to be sensitizing to humans. It also is found to be non-genotoxic. Just because a compound is poisonous to one species, does not necessarily mean it can be directly translated to another. (I mean…can you imagine if we started to outlaw CHOCOLATE because it is unsafe for our pets?!)
It may cause a skin irritation in humans,
however, I am pretty sure when you are drinking LaCroix you are not rubbing it
all over your skin.
Limonene is a naturally occurring chemical within the oils of citrus fruits. It is widely used as a flavoring agent and fragrance compound. Although it has shown to cause male rat kidney toxicity – this is specific to RATS. In fact, limonene is one of the active components in phytochemicals that is thought to be a protective agent against some cancer!
Linalyl Proprionate is a compound found in ginger, lavender oil, and sage oil – and like the above two chemicals it is also a flavoring and fragrance agent.
This information brings me to my first main point – it appears that these compounds are in fact naturally derived! And this is why it is so so important to do your own research on this stuff and to not immediately take these headlines at face value. Articles that read “LACROIX USES INSECTICIDE INGREDIENT IN BEVERAGE” is meant to elicit an emotional response. To get you to click and read and react. But they leave you with the question of how they arrived at this conclusion and where they got their information.
Do your own research. Learn the facts.
Regulations are Tricky
Now you may be wondering…If these ingredients all come from different plants, how is this lawsuit legitimate? Well you see, government regulations can be a pretty complex game. Having worked in an FDA regulated industry for the last 6 years (not in the food industry, however), I am aware on how gray the regulations can be. There are so many different definitions and vague regulations that can be interpreted in many different ways.
In case you weren’t aware, the term “Natural” has no legal
definition from the FDA. This means there are no required industry standards
that need to be followed in order to use this term on your product. The FDA has
previously commented on their website that “The
FDA has considered the term “natural” to mean that nothing artificial or
synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been
included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected
in that food.”
But what about linalool, limonene, and Linalyl Proprionate? Didn’t we just determine that these are naturally derived plant compounds? Well these ingredients happen to be listed by FDA as synthetic flavoring substances that are generally recognized as safe for their intended use. This is because these three compounds not only come from plants, but can be synthetically manufactured in a laboratory as well.
So basically what the claims of this lawsuit boil down to is
LaCroix claims their beverages to be natural and
contain natural flavorings on their food label.
The law firm, Beaumont Costales, is claiming
that the three chemicals that showed up in testing are considered synthetic
flavorings and that the company is falsely advertising as all natural.
The Code of Federal Regulations includes these
three compounds in a list of acceptable synthetic
flavorings but not in the list of acceptable natural flavorings
Science tells us that these compounds can be
either naturally derived or synthetized in a lab.
Really it comes down to whether LaCroix sources their
flavoring agents from a natural or synthetic source. The National Beverage
Company stated in a press release that “Natural flavors in LaCroix are derived
from the natural essence oils from the named fruit used in each of the flavors”
and “All essences contained in LaCroix are certified by our suppliers to be
Make Your Own Decision
What does this mean for the consumer? It means you need to
make a decision for yourself. Do your research. The FDA does not regulate the
use of the term “natural” on food labels.
If you are someone that feels mislead by LaCroix’s “all natural”
claim after learning the above information, then I recommend you take a deeper
look into some of your other food choices (and cosmetics!) as well. LaCroix is
not the only food product out there with “natural flavorings” in their
I, on the other hand, will continue to drink and enjoy the
so satisfyingly bubbly beverage. We live in a sue-happy nation, and I do not
personally feel that I have been “injured by the defendant’s [National Beverage