A federal court in Minnesota has dismissed a putative class action alleging
that General Mills misleads consumers by labeling its Nature Valley products
as “Natural” or “100% Natural” when they actually contain highly processed
ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup, high-maltose dextrin syrup and
maltodextrin. Chin v. General Mills, Inc., No. 12-2150 (D. Minn., decided June 3, 2013). Additional details about the original complaint appear in Issue 453 of this Update.

The court dismissed all counts relating to Nature Valley products that the
plaintiffs did not purchase, according to their first amended complaint, ruling
that they lacked standing to bring such claims. The court dismissed a breach
of written warranty claim brought under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act
because labeling a product as “100% Natural” is not a written warranty under
the law; rather, it is a “product description.” Implied warranty claims under the
Act and state law were also dismissed because the applicable sections “do
not apply to remote purchasers of products” as they require the existence of a
contract between the plaintiff and defendant.

The court also dismissed express warranty claims under state law, agreeing
with General Mills that its “100% Natural” claim could not be “viewed in
isolation and must be read in the context of the entire package, including
the ingredient panel,” and “that the specific terms included in the ingredient
list must inform the more general term ‘100% Natural.’” According to the
court, “the specific terms determine the scope of the express warranty that
was allegedly made to the Plaintiffs.” The plaintiffs’ fraud-based claims were
dismissed because they failed to satisfy the heightened pleading standards of
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b). In this regard, the court stated, “Plaintiffs
make several statements regarding ingredients that are ‘highly processed,’ but
fail to plead what they understood this term to mean and how it does or does
not relate to the ‘100% Natural’ statement.”

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.