In a preliminary settlement agreement, Campbell Soup Co. has agreed to pay $1.05 million in a class action suit brought by plaintiffs who alleged the company misleadingly labeled its soups as having “lower sodium,” even though the sodium content was equal to its regular soups.
Filed last year in New Jersey federal court, the suit alleged that Campbell’s marketed two of its condensed tomato soups as healthier than its regular version and charged a premium for the products. But despite its label claim that it contained “25% less sodium” than the regular version, the less sodium condensed tomato soup contained 480 mg of sodium per serving – the same amount as the regular soup. The Campbell’s Healthy Request condensed tomato soup purported to be “Low in fat,” but contained 1.5 g of fat per serving and 0.5 g saturated fat per serving, more than the regular condensed soup (0 g fat or saturated fat per serving).
The complaint alleged violations of New Jersey state law and sought treble damages for a class period dating back to 2004.
In early August, U.S. District Court Judge Jerome B. Simandle granted preliminary approval to a settlement.
Campbell’s agreed to provide $1.05 million for the settlement fund and an additional $350,000 in attorneys’ fees; class members – limited to purchasers since July 1, 2009 – can receive a maximum recovery of $10 or $0.50 per can. In addition, the company agreed to make changes to its labels to “avoid inconsistent comparisons between the same varieties of reduced sodium condensed and regular condensed soup.”
A final settlement approval hearing is set for November 29.
To read the complaint in Smajlaj v. Campbell Soup Co., click here.
To read the order granting preliminary approval of the settlement, click here.
Why it matters: Suits against companies marketing health and nutrition claims have kept plaintiffs’ attorneys busy in recent years. In addition to the Campbell Soup suit, plaintiffs have targeted Snapple and Ben & Jerry’s over “All Natural” labels and have alleged that Nutella falsely marketed its hazelnut spread as healthy for children when it is really “the next best thing to a candy bar.”