The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has filed a putative class
action on behalf of two named California residents against General Mills
alleging that its use of “All Natural,” “Natural,” and “100% Natural” product
representations on its Nature Valley® food products is deceptive because
they contain high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), high-maltose corn syrup, and
maltodextrin and rice maltodextrin. Janney v. General Mills, No. 12-3919
(N.D. Cal., filed July 26, 2012). According to the complaint, these
ingredients are not “minimally processed,” yet the defendant purportedly
“takes wrongful advantage of consumers’ strong preference for foods made
entirely of natural ingredients” with words and images in its marketing and on
product labels evocative of the outdoors and nature.

While one of the named plaintiffs purchased “natural” food for a daughter with
type 1 diabetes and the other sought an all-natural diet for a daughter with ADHD, they do not allege personal injury, claiming instead that they relied
on the company’s product representations and spent “money on products
they otherwise would not have purchased.” Seeking to represent a statewide
class of product purchasers, the plaintiffs allege violations of California’s unfair
competition and false advertising laws, and unjust enrichment. They ask the
court to (i) declare that the named ingredients “do not occur in nature and are
not minimally processed” and the company’s practice of labeling these products
as “natural” violates state law; (ii) enjoin the company from marketing
products with these ingredients in the state with claims of “100% Natural,” “All
Natural,” or “Natural”; and (iii) damages, disgorgement, restitution, costs, and
attorney’s fees.

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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