This past week, several consumer actions made headlines:
General Mills Faces Potential Class Action Over Health Claims of Sugary Foods
General Mills has been sued in the Northern District of California over claims that it has put misleading labels on a number of its products. According to the complaint, labels with phrases such as “whole grains” and “fiber” are deceptive “because they are incompatible with the significant dangers of the excessive added sugar.” General Mills and other large food companies have been facing similar suits over labelling recently, including a lawsuit over the protein content of its “Cheerios Protein” brand.
Pinnacle Settles with Kraft Heinz Over “Craving” Slogan
Pinnacle Foods Group LLC (“Pinnacle”) has dropped its lawsuit against Kraft Heinz Co. regarding alleged trademark infringement. Pinnacle alleged that Kraft Heinz infringed on the slogan of Pinnacle’s Hungry-Man frozen meals when it introduced “Satisfy Your Cravings” as the slogan for Kraft Heinz’s new brand of Devour frozen meals. Details of the settlement have not been released.
Supplement Maker Must Face Allegations of Rigging Online Reviews
Supplement maker HeartWise Inc. will have to face Lanham Act claims that it made its employees manipulate online reviews for its benefit. Competitor Vitamins Online brought claims against HeartWise that it had engaged in false advertising and misleading practices. According to Vitamins Online, HeartWise had its employees flag negative reviews of its NatureWise products as “unhelpful” and positive reviews as “helpful.” Additionally, Vitamins Online alleged that NatureWise provided free products to customers who posted positive reviews on an online retailer’s site.
A U.S. district judge has ruled that Vitamins Online failed to prove that providing free products to customers was illegal or that it would cause those customers to publish false or misleading reviews. But the judge also held that NatureWise employees may have mislead consumers by making it appear as if other customers were upvoting positive reviews while suppressing negative reviews.
Proposed Class Action Alleges Jessica Alba’s Honest Co. Engaged in Deceptive Labeling and Marketing
A proposed class action has been filed against The Honest Company, alleging that it has been mislabeling and promoting its products as “natural” despite using synthetic or potentially harmful ingredients. The Honest Company, which was founded by actress Jessica Alba, promotes its products as “natural, safe, beautiful, effective,” and that they are “Free from fraud or deception.” But according to the complaint filed in the Central District of California, The Honest Company used synthetic ingredients which the Environmental Working Group has rated as potentially hazardous. Plaintiffs are seeking class certification and damages of at least $5 million.
Publix Accused of Using Wood Pulp as Filler in Grated Parmesan
A Florida lawsuit has alleged that Publix has engaged in deceptive practices by including cellulose derived from wood pulp as a filler in its “100% Real” grated parmesan cheese products. Cellulose is often used in small amounts to act as an anti-clumping agent, but the complaint alleges that the Publix cheese includes significantly more cellulose than needed to prevent clumping or caking, thus acting as filler rather than as an anti-clumping agent. Similar lawsuits have been lodged against other retailers and manufacturers recently.