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Campbell’s Soup ‘less sodium’ soup case to proceed

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 06-Apr-2011

A federal judge has ruled that a case against the Campbell Soup Company can proceed, in which four New Jersey women claim that the company’s ‘less sodium’ claim on tomato soup is misleading.

The women have accused Campbell’s of selling its ‘25% less sodium ’ tomato soup at a premium price, although it contained the same amount of sodium per serving – 480mg – as its regular tomato soup . Consumers could expect to pay 20 to 80 cents more for the ‘less sodium’ variety.

The class action suit seeks an injunction against misleading labeling and a refund for customers who bought the less sodium variety at a premium to Campbell Soup’s regular version.

Campbell’s has said that it will fight the case, and that the allegations are without merit. It said that the claim on its less sodium tomato soup does not attempt to make a comparison with its regular tomato soup, but rather with a range of its regular soups.

The company said in a statement: "Campbell has complete confidence in the accuracy of our labels and our marketing communications and that they meet regulatory and other legal requirements."

In its attempt to dismiss the case, Campbell’s said that it was not necessary for it to name one variety of soup with which its lower sodium claim would be compared, but that it could use an average amount of sodium across a range of its regular soup varieties as a reference point.

US district judge Jerome Simandle denied a motion to dismiss the case, saying that reasonable consumers could be expected to find the less sodium claims misleading.

Simandle said in his ruling: “It is a plausible inference from the facts alleged that it was reasonable for Plaintiffs to expect that the soups they were receiving had 25%-30% less sodium than the regular tomato soup, when the soups in fact had approximately the same amount of sodium.”

The ruling in Smajlaj v. Campbell Soup Co., No. 10-1332 is available online here .

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