Alexia Foods, Inc., makers of all-natural gourmet frozen foods, recently received a warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use of the term "all natural." Alexia brand Roasted Red Potatoes & Baby Portabella Mushrooms products contain disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate, a synthetic chemical preservative. Under its loose definition of natural, the FDA says the use of "all natural" on Alexia's package is misleading.

FDA considers use of the term "natural" on a food label to be truthful and non-misleading when "nothing artificial or synthetic…has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in the food." The synthetic compound in question, disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate, prevents potatoes from turning black.

This misstep is perhaps not surprising for Alexia, given its parent company's track record. In 2008, ConAgra acquired Alexia for an undisclosed amount. This year, consumers sued ConAgra for using the term "100% natural" on its Wesson brand cooking oils made from genetically modified organisms.

Kashi, a subsidiary of the Kellogg Company, also was sued by consumers this year for using "natural" to market products that contain unnaturally processed and synthetic ingredients. As large packaged food giants acquire smaller natural and organic companies and implement unnatural processes into formerly natural products, consumer backlash will continue. And although experts agree that a better FDA definition of "natural" is far off, could consumer lawsuits be shifting FDA toward more regulation?