The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is representing a California woman who has sued General Mills, Inc. on behalf of a putative nationwide class of consumers who purchased the company’s Fruit Roll-Ups®, Fruit by the Foot® and Fruit Gushers® products, claiming that the company deceptively markets them as healthy and wholesome. Lam v. General Mills, Inc. No. 11-5056 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., filed October 14, 2011). According to CSPI, “General Mills is basically dressing up a very cheap candy as if it were fruit and charging a premium for it.”

Product labeling purportedly refers to the snacks as “fruit flavored,” “naturally flavored,” “good source of Vitamin C,” “low fat,” and “gluten free.” The complaint alleges that these claims are misleading because the snacks actually contain trans fat, added sugars, and artificial food dyes. The plaintiff also alleges that the products lack “significant amounts of real, natural fruit” and have no dietary fiber. No personal injury is alleged; instead, the plaintiff claims “that she would not have purchased the Products for herself and her children at a premium price had these misrepresentations not been made.”  

While the complaint indicates that the products’ nutrition panels set forth detailed information about the actual ingredients, the plaintiff contends that “it is hard for a reasonable consumer to tell that the Fruit Roll-Ups Strawberry product does not actually contain any strawberries.” The plaintiff also takes issue with the defendant’s “various promotional gimmicks,” including the opportunity to “win a laptop and give another one to a child in Africa” and to earn cash for school via a “box top for education.” The complaint refers to a package promotion that “directs consumers to a website that contains online games and activities for children,” but does not indicate in what way these promotions are misleading.

Alleging violation of Minnesota’s Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, California Consumers Legal Remedies Act and California’s “Sherman Law,” as well as fraudulent business acts and practices, misleading and deceptive advertising, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, and unjust enrichment, the plaintiff seeks restitution; disgorgement; compensatory, statutory and punitive damages; injunctive relief; attorney’s fees; and costs. See CSPI News Release, October 14, 2011.