Washington, U.S. the Center for Science in the Public Interest notified Crystal Light’s manufacturer, Kraft Foods, on January 9 that it will be sued if it continues to use the word “natural” in connection with its Natural Lemonade, Natural Pink Lemonade, Natural Lemon Iced Tea, and Natural Lemon Decaffeinated Iced Tea.

Crystal Light’s “Natural” lemonade and iced tea mixes contain several decidedly unnatural ingredients, including the artificial sweeteners aspartame and acesulfame-potassium, artificial colors such as Red 40, Yellow 5, and Blue 1, the factory-produced texturizer maltodextrin, and the controversial synthetic preservative butylated hydroxyanisole, or BHA.

“Consumers are increasingly looking for ‘natural’ products because they expect them to be free of artificial sweeteners, dyes, preservatives, and other industrially created ingredients,” said CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner.  “Crystal Light, which is almost all chemicals and almost no actual food, is the last product on Earth that should be masquerading as ‘natural.’”

CSPI’s notification to Kraft is one of three such demand letters the non-profit nutrition and food-safety watchdog group sent to major food companies.

Other notifications, which are required by law in some states to be sent before suits may be filed, were sent to Smart Balance about unauthorized and illegal claims on its Smart Balance Blended Butter Sticks and Abbott Laboratories for deceptive and misleading practices with regard to its Ensure Nutrition Shakes.

The second of CSPI’s pre-litigation notices was sent to Paramus, NJ-based Smart Balance, Inc., which markets, among other things, Smart Balance Blended Butter Sticks, whose labels claim in big print to “help block cholesterol.”

The smaller print indicates that the product’s plant sterol esters help block cholesterol in the butter, but CSPI told the company that that statement is an illegal disease-prevention claim as well as an illegal health claim.

Finally, CSPI is instructing Abbott Laboratories that it will face a lawsuit if it continues to make deceptive and illegal claims in connection with its Ensure Complete Nutrition Shake and Ensure Muscle Health Shake. Abbott markets these shakes to the general public as a twice daily “habit that could help you feel better,” and as “part of a healthy diet.”

Made mostly of water, sugar, and corn maltodextrin, Ensure Complete has 350 calories and Ensure Muscle has 250 calories.

“In a perfect world, agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission would be aggressively policing the marketplace and taking enforcement action against companies like these,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson.