Packaging for a variety of Lean Cuisine’s dinners includes the pretty unambiguous phrase “No preservatives,” leading shoppers to conclude that these items do not, in fact, contain preservatives. But TMZ says a complaint filed by a woman who bought a Craveables line cheese pizza from CVS wants Lean Cuisine to explain why there’s citric acid in that pie and in Asian-Style Pot Stickers, Shrimp Alfredo, Mushroom Mezzaluna Ravioli, Ranchero Braised Beef, plus several others.
There are hundreds of preservatives out there, but citric acid is literally one of 12 the FDA chooses to list as an example on its “Overview of Food Ingredients, Additives & Colors” page. The suit mentions it’s also strange that rival frozen-food manufacturers that use citric acid like Hungry Man, Jimmy Dean, and DiGiorno don’t make the preservatives-free claim on their labels. Also, when a food does contain preservatives, manufacturers are required to indicate that unequivocally. 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 that pizza, the label just lists it: “spice extractives, dehydrated garlic, citric acid, xanthan gum …”
A rep for parent company Nestlé tells TMZ the allegations “are baseless and we will vigorously defend ourselves,” stressing that “All Nestlé products and labels comply with FDA and USDA regulations.”