Once again, consumer activists (or concerned mothers) are using litigation to highlight allegedly “deceptive” labeling practices. With the assistance of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), whose attorneys are acting as co-counsel, two individual plaintiffs are accusing General Mills of deceptively “marketing its Nature Valley products as ‘Natural’ when they contain non-natural, highly processed ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), high maltose corn syrup (HMCS), and maltodextrin and rice maltodextrin.” As always, plaintiffs are seeking certification to proceed as a class action. A copy of the Complaint can be found here:
According to Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the CSPI, “High maltose corn syrup and maltodextrin are highly processed, do not exist in nature and not even under the most elastic possible definition could they be considered ‘natural.’” Significantly, a CSPI press release goes so far as to complain about the imagery used in marketing the Nature Valley granola bars: “Nature Valley’s web and social media presence surrounds itself with images of forests, mountains, lakes, deserts, beaches, and other natural imagery, and shows hikers, backpackers, and divers eating the products.” Such allegations are commonly used to bolster the contention that consumers are being misled about the purity and/or source of the product’s ingredients.
In an interesting twist, however, one of the plaintiffs also contends that they sought out “all natural” products based on medical advice and believed that avoiding artificial dyes, sweeteners, or additives would help her daughter, who had been diagnosed with early onset bipolar disease, attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety.