An Illinois consumer has filed a putative class action against two food companies in federal court, alleging that they fail to disclose that their high-fiber snacks contain a non-natural fiber derived from chicory root which is purportedly not as effective as natural fiber and can cause harm to some individuals. Turek v. General Mills, Inc., No. 09-7038 (N.D. Ill, filed November 9, 2009). The complaint specifically targets General Mills’ Fiber One Chewy Bars® and Fiber One NonFat Yogurt®, as well as the Fiber Plus Antioxidants Chewy Bars® made by Kellogg Co.

The named plaintiff seeks to certify a class of Illinois residents who purchased these products and alleges violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act. She seeks an order (i) requiring the disclosure of all information in the companies’ possession about the “purported health benefits or non-benefits” of the companies’ products and ingredients, (ii) barring the companies from destroying any records relating to this information, and (iii) barring the companies from attempting to induce putative class members to sign releases involving the class claims. The plaintiff also seeks compensatory damages, restitution and disgorgement, injunctive relief, corrective advertising, and attorney’s fees and costs.

The complaint alleges that the companies’ products “contain chicory root extract, which is primarily inulin, which is a non-natural fiber. Current scientific evidence does not show that inulin’s health benefits are equal to those of natural fibers.” The companies allegedly fail to “inform the consumer that this fiber is not natural fiber and that this non-natural fiber has not been shown by current scientific evidence to
possess all of the health benefits of natural fiber.”

The plaintiff cites WebMD for its warning that “using too much inulin causes stomach problems and that women who are pregnant or breast feeding should not use inulin.” According to the plaintiff, the companies fail to disclose any of these “negatives of inulin” and mislead consumers into believing that “inulin possesses all of the same health benefits of natural fiber.”

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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