A federal court in California has reportedly dismissed without prejudice putative class claims filed against General Mills Inc. alleging that the company falsely conveyed to consumers that its Total Blueberry Pomegranate® cereal product contained real fruit. Dvora v. Gen. Mills Inc., No. 11-1074 (U.S. Dist. Ct., C.D. Cal., dismissed May 16, 2011). According to a news source, the court determined that the plaintiff’s state-law claims were preempted by federal product-labeling laws that allow a manufacturer to use a fruit’s name and image to describe a flavor even if the product contains no fruit. The claims were apparently based on allegations that the product was falsely labeled “naturally and artificially flavored” and the packaging was misleading.
The court disagreed, saying, “If you look at the ingredients table, blueberry and pomegranate aren’t there. So I don’t understand how a reasonable consumer is somehow tricked into thinking it contains blueberry and pomegranate.” The court also said in its tentative ruling, “The cereal package includes a picture of the cereal containing ‘clusters.’ Although—with all respect to plaintiff—it is difficult to imagine anyone mistaking said clusters for actual blueberries or pomegranate seeds.” While the plaintiff sought to convince the court that the claims were about false advertising and unfair competition, the court maintained that this was a “flavors case,” and that the company complied with federal flavoring regulations. The plaintiff will have until June 7, 2011, to amend his complaint. See Law360, May 16, 2011.