General Mills Sued Over ‘Natural’ Labeling

by | Aug 1, 2012

A lawsuit filed by two California mothers against General Mills claims the maker of Kix cereal, Bisquick and Cheerios has deceptively marketed its Nature Valley products as natural when they contain highly processed ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, high maltose corn syrup and maltodextrin.

The women are seeking to turn the suit, which was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, into a class action, the New York Times reported.

The suit accuses General Mills of false advertising and anti-competitiveness under California law. The suit also claims General Mills has taken advantage of consumers who seek to buy products made from ingredients that are found in nature and who are willing to pay more for such foods.

In a survey, “100% natural” was the most popular food label among consumers, followed by “all natural ingredients,” the lawsuit said. Consumers preferred both labels over those reading “100% organic.”

The lawsuit notes that the term “natural” is pervasive and prominent on the packaging and advertising of Nature Valley products. General Mills thoroughly reinforces the image of Nature Valley products as all natural on Nature Valley’s website and through social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube, the lawsuit says.

General Mills has been sued numerous times in recent years over its labeling. In a lawsuit last year, a California woman claimed the company deceived consumers into believing its Fruit Roll-ups and Fruit by the Foot snacks are made with real fruit. General Mills lost a bid in May 2012 to dismiss the lawsuit, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal reported. It was the second lawsuit filed against General Mills over its fruit snack labeling.

The company was accused in another lawsuit of defrauding consumers by selling Yoplait Greek Yogurt with an ingredient known as milk protein concentrate, the ultra-filtered, dry milk powder that has prevented Kraft Foods from calling Velveeta cheese, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal reported.

General Mills isn’t the only food products company to face lawsuits over eco-labeling. A lawsuit filed last year against the food giant ConAgra says the company’s Wesson oil contains genetically modified ingredients and doesn’t qualify as “natural.”

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