The company is being sued in the US District Court of Southern California for violations of the Lanham Act, Unfair Competition Law, Common law of Unfair Competition, False Advertising Law, and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act.
In their adverts, the company suggests that Nutri-Grain bars allow you to ‘Eat Better All Day’ because they contain calcium and whole-grains, but the plaintiffs insist that those claims are invalidated by the presence of trans-fats, which contribute to diabetes and heart disease.
The plaintiffs also claim the images chosen by Kellogg for the product packaging, including an image of a Nutri-Grain Bar next to pictures of a water bottle, a salad, an apple, and person exercising imply that eating Nutri-Grain Bars are part of a healthy lifestyle.
They are also seeking compensatory damages and demand that Kellogg mount a ‘corrective advertising campaign.’
Kris Charles, a spokesperson for Kellogg told NutraIngredients-USA.com, that the company believes the suit has no merit.
US litigation lawyer James R Prochnow told this publication that class action lawsuits such as this one are part of a continuing trend in the food and dietary supplement industry where lawsuits are not based on product liability principles, but rather on false, misleading or deceptive advertising.
“It is also not an accident that this lawsuit was filed in California, the home of many of these false advertising lawsuits because of the consumer friendly California state statutes,” he added.
Another breakfast cereal manufacturer, General Mills, has a lawsuit pending against it for claims about the purported cholesterol-lowering benefits of Cheerios.
Five lawsuits were consolidated into one district court case back in October and all contain similar allegations about health claims made by the company for Cheerios.
For years, General Mills has included the line: “you can Lower Your Cholesterol 4% in 6 weeks" on the front of its boxes, as well as “clinically proven to lower cholesterol”.
But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the company with a warning letter about the on-pack claims in May, because although the agency allows a claim linking a reduced risk of heart disease through eating whole grains from oats, it does not allow companies to claim a specific rate of risk reduction.
Kellogg recently settled a dispute with the Oregon Department of Justice and Attorney General John Kroger over immunity claims it was making for its breakfast cereal, Rice Krispies.
In November, Kellogg said it would quit making the claims after they drew heavy criticism from parent groups concerned about the 40 percent sugar levels in the cereals, but said it would let existing stocks run out.
Kellogg began adding vitamins A, B, C and E at 25 per cent of daily recommended values to Rice Krispies over a year ago and added the immunity claim in May.
In May Kellogg said: "These nutrients have been identified by the Institute of Medicine and other studies as playing an important role in the body's immune system. Therefore, we believe the claim ... is supported by reliable and competent scientific evidence."
Kellogg said vitamin A, B, C and E levels would remain unchanged, with or without the claim.