Consumers are challenging two different snack foods over allegedly false and deceptive advertising in new putative class actions.
California resident Garett Koehler claimed he purchased multiple flavors of Pepperidge Farm’s “Natural” Goldfish crackers until he learned that the product in fact contains genetically modified ingredients such as thiamine mononitrate and riboflavin. Koehler said he relied upon the product’s advertising and other promotional materials and understood the “Natural” statement “to mean that the products contained no GMO ingredients or other artificial or synthetic ingredients,” according to the complaint. Had he known the crackers were not natural, he would not have paid for them, he said.
Koehler’s complaint argued that genetically modified ingredients and artificial or synthetic substances are “by definition not natural” and “reasonable consumers reasonably do not expect food labeled as ‘natural’ or ‘Natural’ to include artificial or synthetic substances.”
“No reliable, scientific studies guarantee or show any evidence of long-term safety of GMOs for human consumption,” he contended, adding that “There is an increasing concern amongst health experts and consumers alike that introducing foreign genes into food plants may have unexpected and negative impacts on human health, such as creating new allergens, causing allergic reactions in susceptible individuals, and causing digestive issues.”
The suit also noted that Pepperidge Farm removed the “Natural” statement prior to the filing of Koehler’s suit, which he submitted as evidence of “an implied admission that the products were not natural at all material times” when purchased by the plaintiff.
Koehler sought to certify a class of California residents who purchased the crackers after June 2009 and requested actual, statutory and punitive damages, as well as an injunction to halt the allegedly misleading advertising.
In a separate case, also filed in California federal court, a plaintiff alleged that Kellogg Co. deceives consumers by marketing its Super Mario Fruit Snacks as having been “Made with Real Fruit” when they actually are made of apple puree and various chemicals and preservative additives.
According to the complaint, Kellogg “merely contains de minimis real fruit and unhealthy, unnatural ingredients, chemicals and preservative additives, in addition to merely containing apple puree rather than real fruit.” Reasonable consumers interpret the “Made with Real Fruit” claim to mean that it contains whole fruit, plaintiff Alicia Spevak said, and not just minimal amounts. “In reality, it is an unhealthy sweet snack that is full of sugar, and chemicals.”
She similarly asked the court to certify a statewide class of purchasers for actual, statutory, and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief for violations of state law.
To read the complaint in Koehler v. Pepperidge Farm, click here.
To read the complaint in Spevak v. Kellogg Co., click here.
Why it matters: The seemingly endless trend of lawsuits challenging “natural” and similar food product claims continues with the suits against Pepperidge Farm and Kellogg. Companies making such claims should be prepared to substantiate their advertising in the face of comparable challenges.