Is the Lawsuit Against Goldfish Crackers’ Manufacturer Frivolous?

Goldfish Natural?Pepperidge Farm, the manufacturer of kid fave Goldfish crackers is being sued by a Colorado woman for misrepresenting its “Naturalness”. According to the lawsuit, Goldfish misleadingly represented that the crackers are Natural, when in fact they are not – they contain soy ingredients that are genetically modified. And GMO cannot be considered natural according to the plaintiff.

Is this lawsuit substantive, or just an opportunistic jab at the food industry, just weeks post  strike-down of California’s Proposition 37 to label foods with genetically modified ingredients?

What you need to know:

The FDA has no definition for Natural. In our book, the term is meaningless, and should not be relied upon when making a food choice. We recommend reading the ingredient list and the nutrition label.

The Goldfish product has a fairly simple ingredient list, but unfortunately it is not listed on the Pepperidge Farm website:

Whole Grain Wheat Flour, Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Cheddar Cheese [(Pasteurized Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Annatto], Vegetable Oils (Canola, Sunflower and/or Soybean), Contains 2 Percent or Less of: Salt, Yeast, Autolyzed Yeast, Spices, Leavening (Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate), Onion Powder.

The GMO in this product would come from the Canola or Soybean oils. The rest of the ingredients are pretty straightforward and not troublesome at all. The sodium content is a bit high, but there are definitely much worse options out there for parents to feed their kids.

Here’s the thing with GMO: Any product in the US that contains soy, corn, canola oil, or one of their derivative ingredients is going to be GMO. Unless it is organic, or cleared by the Non GMO project. If you have made that type of food commitment – that’s wonderful.

But if you haven’t, should you feel bad about shortchanging your health or that of your kids?


Because there is no shortage of risks from food, or from anything else for that matter. The known risks of excess calories in one’s diet, or too much added sugar, or high levels of sodium are much greater than the potential risk of genetically modified soybean oil in crackers.

Bottom line: Natural is a meaningless term when plastered on foods. GMO labeling is important, but a product’s GMO content is not the most important thing to take into consideration when choosing a food.

What to do at the supermarket:

When looking for snack crackers, keep your eyes on the ingredient list and look for food without partially hydrogenated oils (trans fat). Sodium content can be very high, try to stay under the 230mg (10% Daily Value) number. Whole wheat options are better where possible. Buy without artificial colors.

If you want to avoid GMOs in your food, look for the Non-GMO verified label on the package. Organic food is also a good bet, but may be cross contaminated with GMOs.

You can also use the GMO feature on Fooducate’s Android and iPhone app, as well as on on our website (It’s free on all 3).

NON GMO Project


  • KL

    The way you worded that last bit, it sounds like you are advising people to choose foods with trans fats. I suggest an edit to include the word “avoid.”

    • Fooducate

      Noted and fixed. Thanks :-)

  • Rich Franklin

    What people need to see is the effect that GMO corn products have. Usually studies show the effects of millions of times more consumption than a human could ever experience. The GMO corn / Round up study will show you why tumors have become so prevalent today.

    • Christopher

      Can you please link that study?

  • pa

    Nice article. It is hard to find info that isn’t extreme. I want to be aware of the things I eat but don’t want it to become a chore. I find that cooking for myself as much as I can gives me a comfort. It might be a false comfort but none the less I feel I have better control of what I’m eating.

  • elise

    What about the autolyzed yeast in the goldfish? Isn’t that just another term for MSG?

  • Mayan Orgel

    Yet another disappointing article by Fooducate. GMO may not be the WORST thing, but to defend it by saying “…Because there is no shortage of risks from food, or from anything else for that matter.” Really Fooducate?! How about keeping everything in moderation? If anything, the fact that “there is no shortage of risks from food, or from anything else for that matter” means that the risks are already excessive. We should be avoiding anything we can, to try to bring it as close to moderation as possible.
    You excuse for GMO is like saying “well, I’m already punching you in the face, I may as well kick you in the shin as well while I’m at it… and stop complaining – shin kicking is not the WORST thing I can do to you.”

    • Fooducate

      Not defending GMO. Just helping people prioritize.

      • Mayan Orgel

        The attitude of the article doesn’t seem to reflect that. It seems like you’re saying not to even consider since there are worse things. I can understand saying that as a btw in an article that’s discussing something else – but this article is specifically discussing GMO.

        • Fooducate

          Look, Fooducate has an app for GMO discovery; we are strong supporters of GMO labeling. But we are also pragmatists and cater to a wide audience of readers and app users. For some people, there are more pressing nutrition matters than GMO yes or no.

          • Mayan Orgel

            It seems you are missing my point again.

          • Fooducate

            Or vice versa ;-)
            Keep fighting the good fight Mayan.

    • Christopher

      Have you actually done any study on GMO beyond titillating youtube conspiracy videos? Have you actually done three years of difficult, in depth study on genetic engineering? Do you actually know what DNA consists of, and what is expressed at the protein level?

      It’s hard to take you seriously when you show such extreme ignorance of even basic principles.

  • Sg Andrea

    There is so many thing that are important when comes to your kid food, GMO is not good period but also products that are high in sodium as this crackers, the point is most of the time the portion is bigger than the suggested one so if something is all ready high in fat, sodium or cholesterol the probability of going over is as well high. I am a little disappointed of this article.

  • James Cooper

    GMO labeling is not in fact important. There is simply no evidence of any kind that GMO foods are harmful, and there are hundreds of peer-reviewed papers showing that GMO foods are harmless.

    • Fooducate

      It is important. (But not the only important thing.)
      Please cite one long term study (20 yrs) that proves GMOs are safe.

      • James Cooper

        GMO foods have been in use in the United States for 20 years with absolutely no harmful effects. However, there is a collection of peer-reviewed papers covering at least that period here: and another here

      • Christopher

        Sure, try any food you’ve eaten. Ever. What do you think selective breeding is?

        • Mayan Orgel

          There is a very big difference between the two – selective breeding is not GMO. Selective breeding is a choosing breeds with certain strong traits in order to maximize those traits. It is a process that happens in nature regardless of human interference. With selective breeding, the breeds must be compatible genetically.
          Genetic modification is the manipulation of the genes themselves – it is done in a lab. Genes are cut up and parts of one genome (species) is inserted into another. This is done on a cellular level, so it does not require species compatibility. This does NOT happen in nature. You cannot get a pig to fertilize a tomato with selective breeding!

          • Christopher

            Yes, so instead of mixing thousands of alleles in one go, you are modifying only a very selective part of the DNA. I’m not sure why anyone would worry too much about adding pig DNA to a tomato.

            This sounds simplistic, but it’s true, you can eat a pig and you can eat a tomato, adding 500 base pairs to a tomato will not likely modify its biochemical makeup to the point where it could possibly be carcinogenic/toxic.

            Any foodstuff can be analysed and screened for mutagens, quite simply.

            Also, you are looking at GMO without considering the benefits. If you look at anything without considering the benefits as well as the risks, things start to become absurd.

            Consider a bucket of water, but only think of the risks.

            Buckets of water are known to drown children, start electrical fires, ruin carpets, kill people when dropped from heights, start chemical reactions with certain products, and are a precursor to an explosive mix of hydrogen and oxygen.

            Following your logic, we should never fill a bucket with water.

            Yes, there are risks associated with GMO, but they are frankly worth it.

          • Mayan Orgel

            There are a lot of things I didn’t mention in this particular response. I was merely responding to you comment “what do you think selective breeding is?”. I was describing the difference between the two, since you (like many people) seemed to think it’s the same thing. I didn’t discuss the risks of GMO either – but you didn’t complain about that.

      • SuperMom101

        Dear Fooducate,

        I find it interesting that both Christopher and James don’t cite one long term study that proves GMOs are safe (and even if they did) frankly, I’d still steer clear of the franken food called GMO.

        Anyway, keep up the great work – we’re reading your posts, using your apps, and are better consumers with healthier families because of your work.

        All the best,


        • Christopher

          I find it interesting that you think such a study could in fact be done. Lets say for example I wanted to study the long term safety of something like a common, non GMO apple. How would I go about that?

          You cannot test it on humans for a number of reasons. Ethically speaking you would have some difficulty, but the main issue is controlling the variables other than the food you are testing.

          In other words how would you know that the food you are testing is causing the issue, rather than the other foods the person is eating? An epidemiological study like this would be a nightmare.

          You could perhaps test the foodstuff on animals, but then there is the problem of applicability to humans. Is something that’s dangerous for animals (example, chocolate) necessarily dangerous for humans?

          What we do know, on average is the composition of a given foodstuff. By taking what we know about the chemical make-up of a food, we can compare this to what we know to be safe for human consumption.

          Calling this ‘franken-food’ is just rhetoric, and puts into question just how serious you are about caring for your families health. If you base all your decisions on ‘gut instinct’ rather than logic and fact, it’s quite possible this is putting your health in jeopardy.

          The fact is, GMO is not a shotgun approach. What they are doing is taking a plant, adding a short sequence of DNA, which in turn generates a useful protein in that plant. We are talking about a small, intentional difference.

          It’s ironic that the thought of taking DNA from a pig or other mammal and putting it in a plant strikes you as so dangerous. If anything, using DNA from another plant is potentially more dangerous. Generally speaking a mammal isn’t going to be creating a protein that shows toxicity in humans as a plant might.

          You are taking a cynical distrust of technology and science which is far more applicable to basic industrial chemical manufacture and applying it to the careful science of genetics.

          • Mayan Orgel

            Christopher, your comment here is basically disqualifying scientific studies – which is the same point I was making in my other post. Putting scientific studies aside, and looking at logic and reasoning, it seems that the difference between us is that you put your trust in something as limited and incomplete as science, while those against GMO trust in the unlimited intelligence of nature.

            Whatever you believe created you, it must have required intelligence and your intelligence is much more limited that “its” intelligence. Do you not trust that this intelligence that created you and everything around you, provided you with everything you need to live an optimal life? Using the limited knowledge of science, with the supplies that nature provides us, we can do amazing things. We made computers, cell phones and even made it to the moon. But we would not have been able to do this without the raw materials provided by nature. When we cross that line though and mess with nature, we always fail. No scientist to this day has managed to create life – that’s nature’s job, not ours! Take for example Biosphere 2. How long did that last? All it did was humble us, and taught us that we cannot replicate nature.

            A tomato is perfect as it is. If it required pig genes, it would already contain pig genes, naturally. In nature, pigs don’t mate with tomatoes. If it was not so intended by an intelligence far superior to yours, there must be good reason for that. Selective breeding, or other means of making the most of what nature gives us is one thing. But messing with nature by manipulating it’s blueprint will not end well. Looking at history will teach you that. Just because we have no way to know the extent of the damage this will cause, doesn’t mean the danger isn’t there

            The only reason (benefit) for GMO is so that the money hungry food manufacturers could cut corners and make even more money. These shortcuts (GMO and others) are making us sick and making the environment around us sick. Legal or not, GMO is criminal – it doesn’t just affect the people involved, it affects even those who try to avoid it – and destroying our world isn’t something that should be anyone’s right – no matter how much money they have or want to have.

          • karma

            Beautifully written!

    • Linda L

      There are also “peer reviewed papers” that say gmos are unhealthy and dangerous. Do some research on the other side…Please

      • James Cooper

        I have done the research. If you have such papers, it is up to you to cite them. I have just cited several hundred establishing their safety.

    • Mayan Orgel

      @disqus_MYXRHy8C7q:disqus, there may not be evidence that’s significant enough for you, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t evidence. There is a lot that can go wrong with scientific “evidence”. The human body, like all other organisms, is a dynamic system. It constantly goes through changes and adapts to its environment. Additionally, every person is unique – genetically, biochemically, physiologically, etc. – no two people are the same. With that understanding, you can see how scientific evidence cannot be 100% conclusive.

      Considering the millions of processes and complexities of the living organism – most of which are unknown to science, you can see how difficult it is to prove the effects of GMO either way. The effects may not be immediate and may not be direct enough to observe in a lab. Look up the word idiopathic (meaning cause unknown) in medical books and you’ll see how may diseases and disorders are idiopathic. Why? because of what I explained above. If diseases, or symptoms appear years after, how can you prove that GMO was the original cause? You can’t – it’s too indirect. Additionally, genetics is a fairly new science, and we have much to learn about it. This makes it hard to connect the dots…

      Let’s look at the diseases that have increased exponentially in the last few decades – autoimmune disorders (including diabetes, allergies, thyroid imbalance), behavioral problems, inflammatory disorders, autism, obesity, etc… The reason for this rise in these disorders is unknown, but there are different theories. However, there is a very good correlation between the increase of these disorders, and the rise of processed food (including GMO)

      Another thing to consider is that the food industry has the necessary means (money, resources) to do research. The research they do is to support their claims – they won’t do studies to prove that GMOs are harmful. And from their track record, I wouldn’t put it past them to fabricate results in order to support their claim. So of course you will find studies that support what they want you to believe.

      Whether you choose to use research or logic to believe what you want to believe, we should have a right to know what’s in our food. But, the problem with GMO is not just about the individual – it’s a global problem. This stuff infects other farms either by pollen or by being fed to animals. This stuff gets exported. Even if it is not harmful, what gives the food industry to make this decision for the whole world?

  • Linda L

    ALSO am disappointed with this article. Fooducate supported Prop 37…Why this change in heart? Put out the truth…gmos are dangerous..stomach cancer is up 50% and children allergies too..a side effect of gmos.. Really fooducate? Thought this site was to educate about food not tell people to eat something unhealty!!! :-(

    • Christopher

      Do you know anything about stomach cancer, or it’s predisposing factors? Do you know the difference between correlation and causation? Did you even continue your education beyond highschool? Do you know how a GMO is made, and what it is?

      No, you are just a soccer mom who’s found the internet and conspiracy theories.

  • SuperMom101

    After I had breast cancer at the age of 38 I steer clear of genetically modified foods and America’s highly processed, chemically, factory-farmed, fake food supply as best I can. Call me crazy but doesn’t the rest of the world ban GMO seeds from entering their agricultural markets? Meanwhile, America (and her children) have never been sicker or fatter and we can’t seem to figure out why.

    p.s. The Unhealthy Truth is a great book on the rise of America’s dangerous food allergies and the rise of GMO crops.

    • Christopher

      Kind of ironic that getting a disease with a genetic basis makes you shy away from the very science that could have predicted it, and if you were HER2+ greatly improved your survival prospects.

      • SuperMom101

        Nope! No genetic basis here – my mom had breast cancer twice (doesn’t have the gene) and my sister once (she tested and doesn’t have the gene either). So, imagine if America’s food supply WAS making us sick….

        Christopher, don’t you find it strange that America has the highest breast cancer rates in the world. In fact, some countries call it the “rich women’s disease”, and we also have the fattest population in the world?

        I prefer to purchase, prepare and feed my family food that doesn’t require a peer reviewed study, degree in molecular biology or a PhD in Chemistry…all because I had breast cancer over 12 years ago and changed what’s on our plates.

        My grandfather had the best adage – you want to see someone’s allegiance – look to see who signs their paycheck. And my other favorite:

        Common sense is not so common. – Voltaire

        I had no idea about America’s franken food supply 12 years ago…

  • Madiooch

    Goldfish contain “Autolyzed Yeast.” That’s another form of MSG. Avoid these things!