US food giants attacked over 'low sugar' claims

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cereals, Nutrition

An American woman has launched a lawsuit aimed at food companies
including Kraft Foods, General Mills and Kellogg alleging that "low
sugar" breakfast cereals are leading the customer astray.

The suit claims that these cereals are misleading because they aren't any healthier than cereals with regular levels of sugar, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Jennifer Hardee of California filed the suit Thursday in the Superior Court of California in San Diego County. She said that the low-sugar cereals falsely represent "that they offer a nutritional advantage over defendants' full-sugar breakfast cereal products, when in fact, the removed sugar is replaced by other carbohydrates, thus offering no significant nutritional advantage."

The complaint, which seeks class-action status, lists the reduced-sugar versions of Post's Fruity Pebbles from Kraft, General Mills' Cocoa Puffs and Trix, and Kellogg's Frosted Flakes.

The food industry in general is coming under increasing pressure from food lobby groups and some parents, to "clean up its act" and offer healthier alternatives to help combat the obesity epidemic facing America. Sugary cereals are frequently cited by these groups as guilty culprits, encouraging children to eat empty calories instead of nutritional whole foods.

An article published recently by the Associated Press said that nutriton scientists at five universities had suggested that "low sugar" cereals had no significant advantages over their regular counterparts.

The scientists found that while the cereals have less sugar, the calories, carbohydrates, fat, fiber and other nutrients were virtually the same as full sugar cereals because the removed sugar had been replaced with refined sugar to preserve the cereal's crunch.

Kraft Foods and Kellogg had not replied to by the time we went to press.

Kimberly Goode, a spokeswoman for Kellogg , told the WSJ that the company doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Abbe Serphos, a spokesperson for Kraft, was quoted by the WSJ as saying the company hadn't received the lawsuit and therefore couldn't comment on it.

As for the decision to introduce low-sugar cereals, she said, "Our research told us that a major concern for moms, for all types of food and particularly for ready-to-eat cereals, is sugar reduction."​Tom Johnson, spokesperson for General Mills told earlier this month, before the lawsuit was announced, that his company's task was to "provide a variety of options"​.

"Every single day we are working to make products healthier,"​ he said.

Related topics: Regulation

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