truth in packaging
Posted by Dale Buss on June 22, 2012 04:01 PM
Supermarket Sweep was a TV game show that started in the Sixties in which contestants jammed as many high-value products into their shopping carts as possible in just a minute or two. For CPG brands, the contemporary version of supermarket sweep isn't so kind. It's one reason there are so many lawsuits against companies over "misleading" advertising about the nutritional value of their foods these days: plaintiffs' lawyers.
A common factor behind new and recent suits against brands including Nutella, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft and Quaker Oats is that nutrition advocacy groups such as Center for Science in the Public Interest conduct "supermarket sweeps" (as CSPI has urged the FDA).
The goal is to find ordinary American consumers in the grocery aisle who are willing to complain — or join a lawsuit — about language on their labels that might be less than completely forthcoming about how healthy the product is. And they turn over their leads to their litigious partners.
"Private lawyers are going into action" in the absence of enough action on truthful labeling by federal regulators, Marion Nestle, an activist professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, told Bloomberg. "They're making real progress."
Of course, "progress" is in the eye of the beholder.
In one notable recent case, Ferrero SpA, parent of the Nutella hazelnut-chocolate spread brand, settled a class-action suit in a federal court in California that claimed misleading labeling and marketing. It cost Ferrero $7 million and a change on Nutella's USA label to read, "turn a balanced breakfast into a tasty one" instead of "an example of a tasty yet balanced breakfast." The company told Bloomberg it stands by "the quality and ingredients" of Nutella.
Kellogg lately has settled a similar suit over Cocoa Krispies and Rice Krispies and Dannon over DanActive and Activia. PepsiCo's Quaker Oats brand has come into the sights of trial lawyers for touting some of its oatmeal and granola as wholesome even though they contain trans fats, Bloomberg added. Likewise Kraft for similar products. All the brands told Bloomberg they stand behind their products.