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Product was tested by a reputable third party lab, says Whole Foods

Whole Foods hit with more lawsuits accusing it of dramatically understating sugar content in its yogurt

6 comments

By Elaine Watson+

16-Aug-2014
Last updated on 18-Aug-2014 at 16:59 GMT

Whole Foods: 'We recognize that Consumer Reports is a trusted publication and are looking into why their test results differ from ours.' (Picture: Jenguine.blogspot.com)
Whole Foods: 'We recognize that Consumer Reports is a trusted publication and are looking into why their test results differ from ours.' (Picture: Jenguine.blogspot.com)

Whole Foods has been hit with new class action lawsuits in Pennsylvania and New Jersey accusing it of significantly understating the sugar content in its 365 Everyday Value plain Greek yogurt, just days after a lawsuit making the same allegation was filed in Massachusetts.

The lawsuits cite data published in July by product testing organization Consumer Reports , which claimed that tests showed the yogurt contained 11.4g of sugar per 225g serving, almost six times the amount (2g) listed by Whole Foods on its product label.

The Texas-based retailer, which doesn’t usually comment on pending litigation, says it is trying to get to the bottom of how a third party lab it works with to conduct nutritional analysis came up with such different results.

A spokesperson told FoodNavigator-USA: “We strive to only provide the highest quality products with accurate product labeling under our 365 Everyday Value line. This product was tested by a reputable third party lab using FDA-approved testing methodology to determine the labeling.

“We recognize that Consumer Reports is a trusted publication and are looking into why their test results differ from ours.”

Most competitor products contain 5-10g sugar per serving

The plaintiffs all seek injunctive, declaratory and monetary relief.

According to the August 1 complaint filed by Massachusetts-based plaintiff Tracey Knox, who is represented by Cuneo Gilbert & Laduca LLP, Mirabella Law and Baron & Herskowitz, Whole Foods “expressly states on the label that it contains 2 grams of sugar per serving".

However, she claimed: "This statement is false. In fact, in six recent tests conducted by the venerable consumer publication Consumer Reports, the yogurt had 11.4 grams of sugar per serving on average, nearly six times the stated amount.”

The low sugar level listed on the label “raised eyebrows because it is much lower than competitors, which generally range between five and 10 grams of sugar per serving”, said Knox.

The disputed label (picture from the Knox v Whole Foods August 1 lawsuit)

“Consumer Reports indicated that of 27 competitors the closest had two-and-a half- times as much sugar as the Yogurt, this should have raised red flags, yet it apparently did not. Defendant knew or should have known that the information it provided concerning the sugar content of the Yogurt was false.”

The alleged mislabeling was particularly concerning for diabetics who need to monitor sugar intakes carefully, added Knox. ”Defendant’s callous disregard put these people at risk.”

‘Whole Foods knew or should have known that the information it provided was false’

Knox seeks to represent a national class of consumers who bought the product on or after August 1, 2010, and/or a state-wide class of consumers in Massachusetts that purchased the yogurt on or after the same date.

New Jersey plaintiff Mark Bilder and Pennsylvania plaintiffs Carmine Clemente and Samantha Kilgallen, who filed their lawsuits on August 8 and 11 and are represented by law firm DeNittis Osefchen - seek to represent shoppers who purchased the yogurt at Whole Foods’ New Jersey and Pennsylvania stores, respectively.  

*The cases are: Knox v. Whole Foods Market Inc., 14-cv-13185, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts; and Clemente, et al. v. Whole Foods Market Inc., Case No. 140801271, in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

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6 comments

Insulin needs for total carbohydrate

A diabetic taking insulin must consider the total carbohydrate (minus the fiber) to calculate insulin requirement for a meal, so an inaccuracy of total sugar listed, which is part of the total carbohydrate, would not matter for calculating insulin requirement. Therefore, the statement by the plaintiffs, that the incorrect label hurts diabetics, is false and tells me that the plaintiffs do not understand diabetes and nutrition; and I do not trust their motives. I am a registered dietitian and my son is a type 1 diabetic.

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Posted by Meredith
20 August 2014 | 17h34

Calorie Calculations

All of the carbohydrates, excluding fiber, should be counted in the calorie calculation, not only the sugar.

Therefore, fat @5g = 45 calories + protein @21g = 84 calories + carbohydrates @ 15g = 60 calories; grand total is 189 calories, which due to labeling laws rounds to 190.

Without seeing the ingredients I can't trouble-shoot this nutrition panel any further, but the calories from declared nutrients do add up.

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Posted by Beth Roberts
18 August 2014 | 20h30

Obvious label error

I agree with #JenniferDiPasquale - the sugar content is obviously (unintentionally?) mislabeled. I looked at the label for another brand of plain Greek yogurt and the total calories break down as follows: protein 9g = 36 calories; sugar 15g = 60 calories; fat 14g = 126 calories. Total = 36+60+126 = 222 calories. Label calories per serving = 220 calories. Now look at the Whole Foods product, assuming 12 grams sugar rather than 2. Protein 21g = 84 calories; sugar 12g = 48 calories; fat 5g = 45 calories. Total 84+48+45 = 177 calories. Label says 190 calories per serving. With rounding errors, I'd say these are the same number. I believe that the sugar displayed on the label is a result of a typographical error somewhere in their process, not an intentional attempt to deceive consumers. The yogurt manufacturer should be able to trace back through their records and prove where the error was introduced into the process. You can bet they will be a lot more careful in the future. I just hope some &#$!* lawyer doesn't get rich over this.

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Posted by rbird
18 August 2014 | 19h53

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