A federal court in New Jersey has issued a preliminary order granting certification of a nationwide class for settlement purposes in litigation against Unilever U.S., Inc., alleging that reduced-calorie labels for its Breyers Smooth & Dreamy Ice Cream® violated consumer fraud law. Ercoline v. Unilever U.S., Inc., No. 10-01747 (U.S. Dist. Ct., D.N.J., order filed October 4, 2010). The class consists of all U.S. purchasers of Breyers and Unilever branded ice cream products represented as reduced-calorie since April 2004. The court also approved the form and content of the class notice and will allow settlement class members to opt out if they make the request at least 20 days before the final approval hearing, scheduled for March 21, 2011. Objections to the proposed settlement must be filed within 45 days of the class notice publication.
According to a news source, Unilever continues to deny that it misrepresented the calorie content of its ice cream products by labeling Smooth & Dreamy® flavors as containing one-third the number of calories as regular ice cream. The product allegedly contains, on average, only about 15 percent fewer calories than the company’s original line of ice cream products. Under the terms of the agreement, Unilever will apparently change its low-calorie ice cream labels, pay class counsel $200,000 for attorney’s fees, pay the named class representative $5,000, and provide $25,000 for costs, fees and the expenses of giving the class notice of the settlement. See Product Liability Law 360, October 6, 2010.