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The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has published a report criticizing movie chain concessions for their nutritional content, comparing some medium popcorn and soda combos to “three McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with 12 pats of butter.” CSPI purportedly analyzed concessions from the three largest theater chains—AMC Entertainment Inc., Cinemark USA, Inc., and Regal Entertainment Group. Faulting both AMC and Regal for popping popcorn in coconut oil, the consumer watchdog alleged that a large Regal popcorn contains 1,200 calories and 60 grams of fat, and a large AMC popcorn contains 1,030 calories and 57 grams of fat. CSPI also reported that although Cinemark uses “heart-healthy” canola oil, its large popcorn is “almost as high in calories and has the most sodium—about twice as much as Regal or AMC.” In addition, the group purportedly found that other movie snacks, including candies sold in 4 to 5 ounce servings, can have “between…

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…

The British Court of Appeal has determined that “Regular Pringles,” a snack food made by Procter and Gamble, are subject to the value-added tax under a provision that applies to “potato crisps, potato sticks, potato puffs and similar products made from the potato, or from potato flour, or from potato starch.” Revenue & Customs v. Procter & Gamble UK, [2009] EWCA Civ 407 (Eng. & Wales Ct. App. (Civ. Div.), decided May 20, 2009). Foods are generally not taxed in Britain, but an exception has been carved out for “food not normally bought primarily for nutrition but eaten as snacks.” The question before the court was whether the Pringles chips, with just 42 percent potato flour content, are “similar to potato crisps and made from the potato.” The company apparently argued that products subject to the tax should be made from 100 percent potato or near 100 percent, to give the…

A federal court in New Jersey has reportedly refused to seal information about a proposed settlement involving putative class claims that the manufacturers of “Pirate’s Booty” and “Veggie Booty” food products misrepresented their nutritional labeling information. Schatz-Bernstein v. Keystone Food Prods., Inc., No. 08-3079 (D.N.J., order entered April 17, 2009). The snacks were allegedly marketed as containing only 2.5 grams of fat and 120 calories per serving, when they actually contained nearly four times the fat and were 25 percent higher in calories. The plaintiff alleges breach of express warranty, unjust enrichment and a violation of consumer protection laws. According to a news source, the defendants sought to seal settlement details that the plaintiff allegedly published improperly. The plaintiff has apparently maintained that the defendants reneged on the agreement. Denying the defendants’ motion to seal, the court reportedly ruled that the defendants wrongly classified their settlement discussions with the court…

Quebec courts have reportedly fined a snack cake manufacturer CAN$44,000 for violating the province’s Consumer Protection Act, which forbids marketing to children younger than age 13. Saputo Inc. pleaded guilty to 22 charges resulting from a complaint filed by anti-obesity advocate Coalition Poids and the Union des Consommateurs. The groups claimed that Saputo used a cartoon gorilla to promote its product in day care centers, hailing the decision as “a victory for children.” “The World Health Organization has identified junk-food advertising as one of the top five causes of the current obesity epidemic,” Coalition Poids Director Suzie Pellerin was quoted as saying. Meanwhile, Quebec’s consumer protection agency has apparently verified similar complaints pending against Burger King and General Mills. Media sources have noted that the successful prosecution of Saputo could signal a shift in how Quebec enforces its unique marketing code. The last court case testing the Consumer Protection Act occurred…

A Massachusetts woman has filed a putative class action in federal court against Gerber Products Co., alleging that its packaging misrepresented the quality of its Fruit Juice Snacks®, which “were virtually nothing more than candy with a touch of vitamin C.” Wiley v. Gerber Prods. Co., No. 09-10099 (D. Mass, filed January 22, 2009). She seeks to represent a class of all consumers who purchased the product before Gerber changed its packaging to indicate that the product was a “treat” rather than a “snack.” Alleging violations of a Massachusetts consumer protection law, intentional and negligent misrepresentation, breach of express and implied warranties, and unjust enrichment, the plaintiff requests class certification, a declaration that Gerber’s acts and practices are unlawful, a permanent injunction, corrective advertising, and damages of $25 per violation amounting to more than $5 million, refunds, double or treble damages, attorney’s fees, and costs. According to the complaint, package…

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the request by Gerber Products Co. to rehear the court’s April 2008 decision overturning the dismissal of putative class claims that the company’s Fruit Juice Snacks® packaging misled consumers. Williams v. Gerber Prods. Co., No. 06-55921 (9th Cir., amended opinion filed December 22, 2008). A detailed summary of the court’s April ruling appears in issue 258 of this Update. In its amended opinion, the court eliminated one sentence and reorganized two other sentences, but did not otherwise change its ruling that a detailed ingredients list in small type cannot shield a food manufacturer from liability for claims that its packaging misrepresents the quality of the product. “Instead, reasonable consumers expect that the ingredient list contains more detailed information about the product that confirms other representations on the packaging.” The product at issue, intended for toddlers, is sold in a package with images of…

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