A California resident has filed a putative class action against General Mills, Inc., alleging that its “100% Natural” labeling and advertising for products such as Nature Valley® Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunchy Granola Bars are misleading because the products contain ingredients grown from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Rojas v. General Mills, Inc., No. 12-5099 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., filed October 1, 2012). Contending that the soy, yellow corn flour, soy flour, and soy lecithin in the granola bars are GMO ingredients, the plaintiff does not request that the defendant provide a GMO disclosure; rather, he “only requests Defendant to remove the ‘100% NATURAL’ labeling from its Product.”
While the plaintiff’s alleged harm is purely economic, i.e., he did not get the benefit of his bargain, he alleges that GMOs “pose a potential threat to consumers because medical research and scientific studies have yet to determine the long-term health effects of genetically engineered foods.” He compares shoppers not wishing to consume GMOs with people who follow restricted diets for religious or moral reasons or those who “physically cannot eat certain foods” due to allergies.
Seeking to certify a statewide class of consumers, the plaintiff alleges violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law, False Advertising Law and Consumers Legal Remedies Act. He asks the court to enjoin the defendant from making product claims that violate these laws, and seeks restitution, disgorgement, actual and punitive damages, attorney’s fees, costs, and interest.