A Hawaii resident has filed a putative nationwide class action against Cargill,
Inc., alleging that the company falsely advertises its Truvia® sweetener
product as “natural” when it is actually made from ingredients that are “either
synthetic or harshly chemically processed.” Howerton v. Cargill, Inc., No.
13-0336 (D. Haw., filed July 8, 2013).

According to the complaint, the company markets the product with “natural
imagery such as the leaves of the stevia plant,” yet “the stevia-derived
ingredient, Reb A, is not the natural crude preparation of stevia, but rather
is a highly chemically processed and purified form of the stevia leaf extract,”
and Reb A “comprises only 1% of Truvia.” The plaintiff alleges that “the main
ingredient, erythritol, which Cargill also purports to be a natural ingredient
derived through natural processes, is not made like it is in nature, but rather
is synthetically made. Cargill describes the process of obtaining stevia leaf
extract as ‘similar to making tea,’ but does not tell the consumer that Cargill
then adds ethanol, methanol, or rubbing alcohol to this so-called ‘tea’ in a
patented multi-step process to purify it.” The plaintiff claims that the product
is priced some 300 percent more than Sweet ‘N Low® and 67 percent more
than Splenda® and that she “suffered an injury by purchasing the Product at
inflated prices.”

Seeking to certify a nationwide class and statewide subclass of consumers, the
plaintiff alleges unjust enrichment, violation of a Hawaii law proscribing unfair
methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices, violation of
Hawaii’s Uniform Deceptive Trade Practice Act, breach of express and implied
warranty under multiple state laws, and violation of the states’ consumer
fraud laws. She also seeks injunctive relief, a corrective advertising campaign,
an order requiring the defendant to “notify each and every individual and/or
business who purchased the Product of the pendency of the claims” to give
them an opportunity to obtain restitution, restitution, disgorgement, and
damages.

 

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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