CSPI Sues General Mills Over Fruit Roll-Up Claims

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has filed a class-action lawsuit against General Mills in the United States District Court in the Northern District of California, arising out of the company’s packaging and claims for its Fruit Roll-Ups, Fruit by the Foot and Fruit Gushers products.  The crux of the lawsuit (gleaned from a CSPI press release quoting language from the complaint):

Labels state those General Mills snacks are “fruit flavored,” “naturally flavored,” a “good source of vitamin C,” and low in calories, fat, and gluten . . . . But obscured on labels is the fact that the so-called fruit snacks are mostly sugars (some from fruit concentrate and some from corn syrup), artificial additives, and potentially harmful artificial dyes. . . .

. . . . Defendant is conveying an overall message of a healthful snack product to parents when, in fact, the Products contain dangerous, non-nutritious, unhealthy partially hydrogenated oil, large amounts of sugar, and potentially harmful artificial dyes.”

fruit roll-ups

As a former false advertising and food regulatory lawyer, I’ll be surprised if CSPI prevails in this lawsuit.  General Mills is sure to defend itself on the grounds that the packaging of its products, including any “healthy” claims, is in full compliance with existing FDA regulations.

But what do you think about lawsuits like this one?  Do you think reasonable parents ought to be savvy enough to know that a “fruit snack” isn’t the equivalent of real fruit?  Do you think the disclosure of ingredients on a label, along with the required nutrition facts, puts parents on fair notice?  Or do you think the overarching “healthy” message conveyed by General Mills’ front-of-box packaging overrides that information and constitutes fraud?

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  1. anthony says

    look at an apple. then look at that box. if you choose to buy that box, you deserve what you get.

    on the other hand…it’s just a fact that people en masse are uninformed, trusting, gullible and work on the assumption that the government is protecting them so “if it’s on the store shelves, it must be safe…” this doesn’t work. if the lawsuit is designed to short-circuit the harm that results to children as a result of companies’ willingness to take advantage of these human “defects” in adults, i’m all for it.

  2. says

    Not surprised that there is a lawsuit regarding a food product’s false advertising (I’m wondering when Neuro, Sobe and other drink makers will be sued for their “bliss”, “brains”, and other happiness-in-a-can flavors), but not sure lawsuits are the answer. Sure, they keep attorneys and paralegals employed, but it’s a waste of public resources. To me, it’s no different than the lawsuits against fast food places. There is an abundance of free educational information about nutrition, understanding labels and decoding ingredients. Clearly a piece of fruit is much, much better (doesn’t even compare!) than a fruit roll-up. To sue the company because a parent somehow is shocked at the poor nutritional value despite advertised claims is ridiculous. Seems the bigger problems are what the FDA allows companies to claim and parents needing a scapegoat for their ignorance.

  3. Catherine says

    My only thought is that I hope this lawsuit gets lots of publicity. Maybe some well-meaning parents will see it and realize these things are not good for kids.

  4. says

    I hope that not only does General Mills prevail, but that they end up taking CSPI to the financial cleaners. I absolutely despise CSPI.


  5. Mike P says

    CSPI is taking it to state court in California because their consumer protection laws are tougher there than in many places. It’s not a matter of passing FDA standards, it’s a matter of actively working to deceive the consumer, which is illegal in CA, according to my understanding.

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