Nonprofit health advocacy group The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Friday announced that it has filed a complaint in California federal court on behalf of a California mother, charging that General Mills has engaged in deceptive practices in marketing its Fruit Roll-Ups, Fruit by the Foot and “other similar products.”
Fruit Roll-Ups and Fruit by the Foot are part of the Betty Crocker brand’s portfolio.
CSPI and law firm Reese Richman LLP filed the complaint, seeking class-action status and a jury trial in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, according to CSPI’s release.
The complaint alleges that General Mills’ labeling of fruit-flavored snacks violates various state laws, including Minnesota’s Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act (General Mills is based in Golden Valley, Minn.) and several California laws governing misleading and deceptive advertising and fraudulent business practices.
Specifically, the complaint contends that the use of wording including “naturally flavored,” “good source of Vitamin C,” “[low number] of calories,” “low fat” and “gluten-free” on the snacks’ packaging and in their marketing/advertising deceptively conveys “an overall message of a healthful snack product to parents when, in fact, the products contain dangerous, non-nutritious, unhealthy partially hydrogenated oil, large amounts of sugar, and potentially harmful artificial dyes.”
CSPI said that before resorting to litigation, it had “privately urged General Mills to change its ‘fruit’ snacks labels, but without success.”
Asked about the suit, General Mills supplied the following email response to Marketing Daily: “To our knowledge, we have not been served with any lawsuit. But it would not be unusual for CSPI to put out a press release before actually serving a lawsuit. We cannot comment further at this point [because of not having been served], but we may well have a statement if we are. We stand behind our products – and we stand behind the accuracy of the labeling of those products.”