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Plaintiffs in California and New York have filed a putative class action alleging Clif Bar & Co. “omits, intentionally distracts from, and otherwise downplays" the "high added sugar content” of Clif Classic and Clif Kid bars. Milan v. Clif Bar & Co., No. 18-2354 (N.D. Cal., filed April 19, 2018). The complaint asserts that the bars contain high amounts of added sugar—“a chronic liver toxin”—and alleges that excess sugar consumption can lead to several conditions, including metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, high triglycerides and hypertension. The plaintiffs allege that Clif “employs a strategic marketing campaign intended to appeal to customers interested in healthful foods in order to increase sales and profits, despite that the high-sugar bars are detrimental to health.” By emphasizing “nutritious” and “organic” ingredients as well as the lack of high-fructose corn syrup and genetically modified organisms, the company allegedly fails to disclose that Clif Classic and…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging Health-Ade LLC's kombucha contains four to five times the amount of sugar listed on its label. Gonzalez v. Health-Ade LLC, 28-1836 (N.D. Cal., filed March 23, 2018). The complaint alleges that the nutrition panels for nine of Health-Ade's products state they contain from two to four grams of sugar per 8-ounce serving, but the plaintiffs’ testing apparently indicates the beverages contain between 11 and 13 grams per serving. Claiming false and misleading advertising, unjust enrichment, breach of warranties and negligent misrepresentation, the plaintiffs seek certification of nationwide and California classes, injunctive relief, corrective advertising, damages and application of the common fund doctrine.

Researchers in France and Brazil have concluded that a 10 percent increase in the consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with a "significant increase of greater than 10% in risks of overall and breast cancer." Thibault Fiolet, et al., "Consumption of ultra-processed food and cancer risks: results from NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort," BMJ, February 14, 2018. The study, which involved surveying records of more than 100,000 participants, asserts that ultra-processed fats and sauces along with sugary products and drinks were associated with an increased risk of overall cancer, while ultra-processed sugary products were also associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. The researchers hypothesized that the findings were caused by the "generally poorer nutritional quality of diets rich in ultra-processed foods," the wide range of additives used, and heat-related processing and preparation that produce neoformed contaminants such as acrylamide.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has launched a consultation on its draft protocol for its scientific opinion on free sugars. The protocol responds to five member states' request seeking "a science-based cut-off value for a daily exposure to added sugars from all sources (i.e. sucrose, fructose, glucose, starch hydrolysates such as glucose syrup, high-fructose syrup and other isolated sugar preparations used as such or added during food preparation and manufacturing) which is not associated with adverse health effects." EFSA will not accept comments "related to policy or risk management aspects, which are out of the scope of EFSA's activity." Comments will be accepted until March 4, 2018.

Responding to pressure from health groups, the government and consumer demand, food companies have been reducing levels of sugar and salt in their foods, the Washington Post reports, but levels of saturated fats in the updated recipes for these reduced-salt or -sugar foods have surged. The Post cites a November 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that purportedly found a significant rise in saturated fats in four of the five food categories examined—cereals, yogurts, snacks and frozen/refrigerated meals showed increases, although candy did not—while the same categories largely showed decreases in salt and sugar. Food scientists who formulate products with reduced sugar and salt told the Post that decreasing one nutrient often results in increases for others to account for the weight and volume lost, especially when less of the replacement ingredient is required, such as the use of stevia to replace sugar. The author of the USDA report speculated that the rise…

Two consumers have filed a putative class action alleging Mondelez International's Belvita breakfast foods are marketed to consumers interested in “health and wellness” but contain between 8 and 14 grams of added sugar per serving. McMorrow v. Mondelez Int’l, No. 17-2327 (S.D. Cal., filed November 16, 2017). The complaint asserts that the packaging and labeling claims are deceptively marketed to consumers as "healthy" but contribute to excess sugar consumption. Alleging violations of California’s consumer-protection laws and breach of warranties, the plaintiffs seek class certification, injunctive relief, corrective advertising, damages, restitution and attorney’s fees.

PLOS has published an article asserting that in 1970, the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) terminated its funding of research into the health risks of sugar and did not publish the research results. C. Kearns, et al., “Sugar industry sponsorship of germ-free rodent studies linking sucrose to hyperlipidemia and cancer: An historical analysis of internal documents,” PLOS Biology, November 21, 2017. Echoing a September 2016 JAMA article also from the University of California, San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, the article reportedly claims the research showed that sugar increased high triglyceride levels and was a possible carcinogen.

The Scottish Government is seeking public comment on a consultation that proposes actions to improve diet and reduce obesity in Scotland. The government previously announced funding of more than $55 million over five years to limit the marketing of food high in fat, sugar and salt and provide weight-loss support for people with type 2 diabetes. The consultation, which is open through January 31, 2018, asks questions about promotions and marketing, “out of home” or restaurant eating, labeling, product reformulation and taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages or similar products. Scotland is also considering proposals to limit “junk food” advertising and provide support for small and mid-sized food manufacturers to reformulate and develop healthier products.

A California federal court will allow to proceed a suit alleging that Kellogg’s breakfast cereals and bars are unhealthy because of excess added sugars, finding that the labeling and packaging of 24 named products “contain at least one statement that is not preempted, non-misleading or puffery as a matter of law.” Hadley v. Kellogg Sales Co., No. 16-4955 (N.D. Cal., entered August 10, 2017). The court rejected Kellogg’s argument that the company accurately disclosed the ingredients of its products and complied with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeling guidelines. The court also found that because FDA “expressly decided” not to set a level for sugar that would disqualify a product from making health or nutrient-content claims, any allegation that Kellogg’s product labeling was misleading because of a certain amount of added sugar was preempted by the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. However, the court refused to preempt a claim…

A plaintiff’s “cursory, formulaic recitation” of her purchase of Jelly Belly Candy Co.'s Sport Beans did not include enough factual allegations to establish a claim for relief, a California federal court has ruled. Gomez v. Jelly Belly Candy Co., No. 17-­0575 (C.D. Cal., order entered June 8, 2017). The plaintiff had alleged the candy maker’s use of the term “evaporated cane juice” (ECJ) on the packaging misled her about the product's sugar content. Additional details on the complaint appear in Issue 629 of this Update. “Absent from the Complaint are any factual allegations concerning the circumstances of Gomez’s purchase of the product, how she intended to use the product, whether she in fact expected a sugar-free product, whether she thought ‘evaporated cane juice’ was juice as opposed to sugar, and whether she consumed the product,” the court said, granting Jelly Belly's motion to dismiss. However, the court ruled that Gomez…

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