ConAgra Sued for False Advertising Over Parkay Spray butter substitute

A woman has filed a complaint against ConAgra Foods in U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska and, as always, is seeking class action certification.  Plaintiff alleges that, although ConAgra’s Parkay Spray butter substitute is advertised as “fat free” and “calorie free,” it “contains 832 calories and 93 grams of fat per bottle.”  According to the Parkay website, the “Servings Per Container” on the bottle’s Nutrition Facts panel is “about 226 sprays” with a serving size being 5 sprays.  Plaintiff, however, alleges that these “product labels include artificially small ‘serving sizes’ that fail to account for the manner in which these products are customarily consumed.”  ConAgra’s advertisements are thus false because, according to the Complaint, the product “contains ingredients that are fats which, even in small quantities, add trivial amounts of fat per serving.”

Notably, plaintiff alleges that ConAgra’s labeling directly violates the FDA’s regulatory scheme by providing a smaller “serving size” than the amount of food “customarily consumed at one eating occasion” based on “consumption data under actual conditions of use” as required under C.F.R. §§101.9(b)(1).  Based on that contention, Plaintiff further alleges that ConAgra “made unlawful ‘fat free’ and ‘calorie free’ nutrient content claims” because a “product that uses unlawful serving sizes cannot claim to be ‘fat free’ or ‘calorie free.’  21 C.F.R. §101.62(a)(3); 21 C.F.R. §101.60)a)(3).”

Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Con Agra was aware that its Parkay Spray was mislabeled based on consumer complaints and an FDA guidance letter from March 2005 that “reminded” the food industry about the importance of accurately determining proper serving sizes for their products.  The Complaint includes eight different claims with the primary claims alleging violations of Nebraska’s Consumer Protection Act and Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act.  See the entire Complaint here.

This will be an interesting case to watch because Plaintiff cannot prevail  if ConAgra shows that it properly complied with FDA regulations on calculating serving size.

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