The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has filed a putative class action on behalf of two named California residents against General Mills alleging that its use of “All Natural,” “Natural,” and “100% Natural” product representations on its Nature Valley® food products is deceptive because they contain high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), high-maltose corn syrup, and maltodextrin and rice maltodextrin. Janney v. General Mills, No. C12-3919 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., filed July 26, 2012). According to the complaint, these ingredients are not “minimally processed,” yet the defendant purportedly “takes wrongful advantage of consumers’ strong preference for foods made entirely of natural ingredients” with words and images in its marketing and on product labels evocative of the outdoors and nature.
While one of the named plaintiffs purchased “natural” food for a daughter with type 1 diabetes and the other sought an all-natural diet for a daughter with ADHD, they do not allege personal injury, claiming instead that they relied on the company’s product representations and spent “money on products they otherwise would not have purchased.” Seeking to represent a statewide class of product purchasers, the plaintiffs allege violations of California’s unfair competition and false advertising laws, and unjust enrichment. They ask the court to (i) declare that the named ingredients “do not occur in nature and are not minimally processed” and the company’s practice of labeling these products as “natural” violates state law; (ii) enjoin the company from marketing products with these ingredients in the state with claims of “100% Natural,” “All Natural,” or “Natural”; and (iii) damages, disgorgement, restitution, costs, and attorney’s fees.