SAN FRANCISCO — Cereal giants Kellogg Co. and General Mills, Inc. recently received two different rulings regarding the manner in which they market certain cereals.
Judge Lucy H. Koh in the Northern District of California in an Aug. 13 opinion ruled that two label statements Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg featured on its Raisin Bran and Raisin Bran Crunch cereal are considered unauthorized health claims under Food and Drug Administration regulations.
The label statements in question make reference to “heart healthy,” “good sources of fiber” and “can help support a healthy lifestyle.”
While Kellogg has argued that the statements are similar enough to Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act (F.D.A.M.A.) authorized health claims not to draw confusion, Judge Koh disagreed. She said Kellogg did not use the “exact words” that appear in the F.D.A.M.A., nor did Kellogg cite any authority that would permit the company to make the claims.
Judge Koh also denied Kellogg’s motion to exclude experts put forth by the plaintiffs in the case.
She did note that Kellogg’s actions did not rise to the level required for punitive damages, saying the company’s actions did not meet the requirements of “fraud” or “malice.”
Kellogg’s case is set to go to trial in early December.
In a separate case, Judge Jeffrey S. White of the Northern District of California dismissed a lawsuit against Minneapolis-based General Mills.
In the case, plaintiffs had alleged that General Mills’ health and wellness claims are “deceptive because they are incompatible with the significant dangers of the excessive added sugar consumption to which these foods contribute.”
The plaintiffs alleged that when purchasing General Mills’ products they were unaware of the extent to which consuming high levels of added sugar in any form adversely affect blood sugar. They said they would not have purchased the products if they had known that they were not as healthy as represented.
But Judge White disagreed with the plaintiffs’ assertions, noting that they fell under the category of “reasonable consumers.” “Reasonable consumers,” he said, are expected to come to their own conclusions about whether sugar content that is clearly marked on packaging is healthy or not.
“This court finds that, regardless, the reasonable consumer cannot plausibly claim to be misled about the sugar content of their cereal purchases here as defendant provided them with all truthful and required objective facts about its products,” Judge White wrote.