Lawsuit Alleges Marketing Campaigns, Packaging Mislead Consumers About Some Cereals’ Nutritional Value
A lawsuit filed in Superior Court in San Diego alleges that three cereal companies engaged in deceptive marketing practices that suggested low-sugar cereals were healthier than regular-sugar varieties, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
The lawsuit seeks class-action status against Kraft Foods, which produces Post cereals; Kellogg USA; and General Mills for California consumers who purchased low-sugar cereals (Moran, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/29).
The lawsuit alleges that marketing campaigns and packaging for low-sugar cereals falsely suggest "that they offer a nutritional advantage over defendants' full-sugar breakfast cereal products, when in fact the removed sugar is replaced by other carbohydrates, thus offering no significant nutritional advantage" (Ellison, Wall Street Journal, 3/28).
In the suit, the plaintiff claims that she bought three low-sugar cereals believing they were healthier for her children. However, the plaintiff became "alarmed" when she learned of a recent report that found the low-sugar cereals were not healthier, the Union-Tribune reports (San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/29).
Harold Rubenstein, attorney for the plaintiff, said the sugar in such cereals is replaced by refined carbohydrates, which are metabolized similarly to sugar. "They're taking sugar out, but bringing it back through the back door under a different name," he said.
The lawsuit seeks restitution for the cost of purchasing low-sugar cereals since their introduction. It also seeks damages that have not yet been determined.
The plaintiff was unavailable for comment, according to the Journal.
General Mills spokesperson Marybeth Thorsgaard said the company had not received the lawsuit and could not comment on it, but she said that the company never made specific health claims about its products. "Consumers wanted less sugar, so we gave them less sugar. This product has the same nutritional benefits the previous version did," she said.
Abbe Serphos, a spokesperson for Kraft, said the company also had not received the lawsuit and could not comment. She said that Post packages clearly label nutritional information in compliance with FDA regulations, adding, "Our research told us that a major concern for moms, for all types or food and particularly for ready-to-eat cereals, is sugar reduction."
Kellogg's spokesperson Kimberly Goode said the company does not comment on pending lawsuits.
Del Mission Liquor, a liquor and grocery store in San Diego that sells low-sugar cereals, also was named in the suit. Assistant store manager Cathy Guzman said, "If [the plaintiff] doesn't like [low-sugar cereal], she doesn't have to buy it here" (Wall Street Journal, 3/28).