“Healthy” Foods Continue to Confuse Consumers
Several 2019 putative class actions targeted food products that purportedly misled consumers because they were marketed as “healthy” despite containing ingredients with debated health benefits. Coconut and coconut-derived products were a popular target for plaintiffs, who asserted that they were misled about the benefits associated with cooking with coconut oil or drinking coconut milk because coconut products frequently carry high levels of saturated fat. The same plaintiff sued Hain Celestial Group Inc. and Danone U.S. Inc., though the court found that Danone‘s marketing touting So Delicious Coconut Milk’s “Maximum Calcium Absorption” benefit was “a permissible structure/function claim.”
“Healthy” confusion also extended to TGI Friday’s Inc. potato skins—the “labeling deceives consumers into believing that they are receiving a healthier snack” because the potato skin is high in several nutrients, the plaintiffs allege—and sprouted grains, which Food for Life Baking Co. Inc. apparently marketed as nutritionally superior to comparable cereal products.
Kellogg Sales Co. faced a “healthy” lawsuit targeting the sugar content of its cereals while it settled a 2016 lawsuit with similar claims for $20 million. Shook Partner Lindsey Heinz and Associate Elizabeth Fessler authored a Law360 article on the settlement.