Kraft Foods has rejected accusations that its fat-free percentage claims on certain deli meat products mislead and deceive consumers.
The food giant, along with Hormel Foods Corporation, faces a class action and claims for damages filed in a Florida federal court.
Sydney Lindner, Kraft’s associate director, corporate affairs, told FoodNavigatorUSA: “This lawsuit is unfounded. We stand behind the statements on our labels, which are true and clear. What’s more, these labels are regulated and approved by the USDA prior to use.
“Our packaging contains information about calories from fat in the Nutrition Facts panel, under the Amount Per Serving section. Consumers are our priority and we believe our labels provide them with helpful information about our products including calories from fat.”
The lawsuit was filed by attorney Aaron Mayer against lunch meat maker Oscar Mayer, owned by Kraft Foods, and against Hormel Corporation.
The dispute concerns labels on Oscar Mayer and Hormel lunch meat packages which claim 95%, 97% and 98% fat free.
Aaron Mayer told South Carolina news organization Wistv.com: "Often times it's ten times as fat as they claim them to be. That's why we filed the lawsuit”.
Aaron Mayer filed the case on behalf of Brad Kuenzig and others. Kuenzig said he bought both Kraft’s Oscar Mayer brand and Hormel’s Natural Choice brand within the past 12 months at a Wal-Mart near his home.
Legal specialist, James Prochnow, told FoodNavigatorUSA: “It is likely that this will be a long, expensive lawsuit for the defendants and for the lawyers who represent the plaintiff, but probably not for the plaintiff himself. The complaint consists of 227 numbered paragraphs.
Trend and strategy
“This is a very large number; in my opinion. The use of a very large number of paragraphs to assert simple claims appears to be part of a trend and strategy by plaintiffs' counsel to both increase the cost of business defendants to defend these lawsuits and to provide to the media "food" for the media's digestion, thus gaining exposure to consumers and increasing business pressure on defendants to settle these lawsuits early on. This complaint could have been prepared with one-tenth the number of paragraphs that actually exist.”
Prochnow, a Denver-based food and drug lawyer who defends companies and individuals in civil and criminal investigations and lawsuits, highlighted the fact that legal counsel for the plaintiff has its office in South Carolina, but the lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Florida.
“I am sure that the defendants will make an all out effort to find out all that they can about how and why the named plaintiff decided to file a lawsuit in light of the fact that he apparently purchased only one turkey product from Hormel and one from Kraft before starting the lawsuit.”
No one from Hormel Foods Corp was available to speak to FoodNavigatorUSA.