A California federal court has granted certification to buyers of Kellogg Co.’s Raisin Bran, Frosted Mini-Wheats and Smart Start who allege they were misled about the health benefits of the products because they contain added sugar. Hadley v. Kellogg Sales Co., No. 16-4955 (N.D. Cal., San Jose Div., entered August 17, 2018). The complaint also contained an allegation about Nutri-Grain bars, but the court declined to certify that class.

Kellogg argued that the plaintiffs did not meet the predominance standards for certification, asserting that most consumers did not see the challenged phrases “lightly sweetened” and “wholesome goodness” on the product packaging and further that “the health impact of consuming added sugar—and thus the alleged falsity of the challenged statements—differs for each consumer.” The court agreed as to the “wholesome goodness” phrase on Nutri-Grain bars packaging but disagreed that most consumers would not have seen “lightly sweetened” phrasing based on its prominent placement on the cereals’ packaging. The court further found that the “actual physical ‘impact’” of the product on any specific class member’s health “has no bearing on whether the challenged health statements are false, deceptive, or materially misleading []. Instead, the falsity or deceptiveness of the challenged health statements are likely to deceive or mislead a hypothetical reasonable consumer in light of the amount of added sugar that Kellogg puts into those products.”

The court certified a California class of consumers who purchased Raisin Bran, Smart Start and Frosted Mini-Wheats but declined to certify a class of Nutri-Grain purchasers because of the individual inquiries necessary to determine if members of the proposed class saw “wholesome goodness” on the back of the product’s packaging.

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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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