Four customers in New York state are bringing a class action lawsuit against the cereal giant Kellogg Company over “fraud, intentional and negligent misrepresentation, breach of express and implied warranties and unjust enrichment.” It might sound odd to sue a cereal maker over sugar-heavy breakfast foods. We have all learned that sugary breakfast cereals aren’t good for us. But what about Raisin Bran?
Starting in the ’80s, ads told us cereal was “part of a balanced breakfast.” Knowing that marshmallows and food dyes aren’t good for us, we were sold the cereal next to sunny side up eggs and fruit. In recent years, no one tries to say Froot Loops are integral food to start the day right. But, we see ads where Mini Wheats help kids stay focused at school and Corn Flakes help children beat their dad at one-on-one basketball in the driveway. Mini-Wheats and the like tout the virtue of their ingredients by focusing on fiber and whole grain claims. Packaging stresses that they don’t contain high fructose corn syrup to distract from the overall amount of sugar in the product.
The lawsuit is about Nutri-Grain bars, Frosted Mini-Wheats, Raisin Bran and Smart Start — the breakfast foods that seem better for you. The products contain a lot of added sugar, but the packaging, according to the plaintiffs, implies that the foods have health benefits. According to the lawsuit, the marketing is fraudulent because the health claims they make are “incompatible with the dangers of the excessive sugar consumption to which these foods contribute.”
The plaintiffs’ suit “claims that excessive sugar consumption by children can lead to the potential for an addiction response.” Moreover, “Despite the wealth of evidence showing that excessive sugar is dangerous to the human body, Kellogg… market[s] their high-sugar cereal and bars by using ‘aggressive health and wellness claims.’”
Because it is a class action suit, it represents many people — any consumers who bought the cereals or snack bars with health and wellness claims on the packaging in the last six years. Should the court come down on the side of the plaintiffs, the suit might open a massive can of works from junk food producers, and we may see many cases against food manufacturers in the future.
Banner image: Evan-Amos, Wikimedia