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Lean Cuisine Hit With Lawsuit Over False Labeling

author image Laura Hertzfeld
Laura Hertzfeld has reported on entertainment, business, and lifestyle topics at a variety of outlets, including Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Magazine, Tablet, and NPR.  She holds a degree in history from Barnard College, Columbia University.
Lean Cuisine Hit With Lawsuit Over False Labeling
View from above of a freezer drawer with a variety of packaged frozen food. Photo Credit: Dorann Weber/Moment Mobile/Getty Images

You know that Lean Cuisine box stashed in the back of your freezer? Even though the package says “No Preservatives,” it may not be the cold that’s keeping it fresh. A new lawsuit claims that the frozen-food giant in fact uses citric acid in its products, which is recognized by the FDA as a preservative.

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TMZ reported this week on a lawsuit filed by a woman who claims she pays a premium for preservative-free products and wants Lean Cuisine to begin a “corrective advertising campaign” to protect consumers.

Citric acid is one of 12 “preservatives” listed by the FDA. On Lean Cuisine’s site for the product in question — a frozen pizza from the Cravables line — citric acid is included as one of the ingredients. The lawsuit also claims to have found preservatives in a number of other Lean Cuisine meals.

Grub Street reports that while Lean Cuisine lists citric acid as an ingredient, they do not explicitly label it as a preservative, which is required by the FDA.

“Per the FDA, again: ‘The ingredient list must include both the common or usual name of the preservative and the function of the preservative by including terms, such as ‘preservative,’ ‘to retard spoilage,’ ‘a mold inhibitor,’ ‘to help protect flavor’ or ‘to promote color retention.’ Lean Cuisine doesn’t do this either. For the aforementioned pizza, the label just lists it: ‘spice extractives, dehydrated garlic, citric acid, xanthan gum….’”

But Lean Cuisine plans to fight back. Nestle, its parent company, submitted the following statement in response: “The allegations are baseless, and we will vigorously defend ourselves. All Nestle products and labels comply with FDA and USDA regulations.”

What Do YOU Think?

Do you purposefully buy preservative-free products at the grocery store? Should Lean Cuisine be forced to update their labeling? Share your thoughts below!

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