Numerous Lawsuits Filed Against Food Manufacturers for Improper Labeling
Over the last four months, attorneys have filed at least 25 lawsuits against big food manufacturing corporations like ConAgra, PepsiCo, Heinz, General Mills and Chobani claiming that these companies have illegally mislabeled numerous food products. They’re asking for products to be removed from shelves, as well as for a financial settlement based on the number of products that have been sold.
The lawyers say the lawsuits are necessary because improperly labeled products violate federal regulations and mislead consumers. Some of the claims these companies are making about their products, the attorneys claim, are simply untrue.
Recently, litigators asked a California court to stop ConAgra’s sales of Pam cooking spray, Swiss Miss cocoa products and some Hunt’s canned tomatoes due to what they described as inaccurate product labeling. It is a violation of the law to make unsubstantiated claims about a product’s healthful properties or failing to include on the packaging all of the true ingredients involved in the product. “It’s a crime,” Barrett said in a recent interview with the New York Times, referring to product mislabeling, “and that makes it a crime to sell it.”
Many food companies call the lawsuits frivolous, and cite examples of recent lawsuits that have been criticized by corporations and the public alike for their absurdity. Recently, a suit was filed against Nutella by two mothers who claimed they were deceived into believing the chocolate spread was healthy for children. A suit against PepsiCo was recently dismissed that asserted Cap’n Crunch Berries didn’t contain real berries.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest recently sued General Mills and McNeil Nutritionals over its Nature’s Valley and Splenda products. The group also demanded that Welch’s change the wording on some of its fruit snacks or it would sue that company as well. The Federal Trade Commission sued Dannon and Pom Wonderful over claims that their products provided health benefits to consumers. The Federal Trade Commission won.
Currently, there are no federal standards over claims like “healthy” or “natural.” Perhaps some of these lawsuits will change that. Just as companies cannot claim “organic” products on packaging without meeting a set of federal standards, lawsuits like these could set legal precedents and create standards that companies must meet to be able to make claims of health benefits.
While the amount of compensation sought in these lawsuits is undisclosed, it is based on the sales of the products in questions. These suits are likely seeking settlements of millions of dollars.