Two California women have accused General Mills, producer of granola bars, Oats ‘N Honey, and other “healthy” snacks of deceptive marketing and false advertising.
On behalf of the two women, the San Francisco law firms of Baker Law, P.C., and Sherman Business Law filed a suit on Thursday in the Northern District Court of California against Nature Valley and its parent company General Mills for allegedly misleading claims.
According to the complaint, the General Mills' Nature Valley products touted as “100% natural” are actually packed with highly processed ingredients.
The lawsuit states, “General Mills seeks to capitalize on consumers’ preference for all-natural foods and the association between such foods and a wholesome way of life.
“Consumers are willing to pay more for natural foods because of this association, as well as the perceived higher quality, health and safety benefits and low impact on the environment associated with products labeled as ‘natural'.”
The aim of the plaintiffs was to create awareness among consumers that packaging can deceive them into believing the snacks are healthy and natural, rather than a combination of processed ingredients.
Highly processed ingredients
The so called natural and healthy snacks produced by the food giant contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), high maltose corn syrup (HMCS), and maltodextrin and ricemaltodextrin (together, Maltodextrin). All these are processed additions used to thicken or sweeten the products.
“High maltose corn syrup and maltodextrin are highly processed, do not exist in nature and not even under the most elastic possible definition could they be considered ‘natural',” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and co-counsel in the lawsuit.
The aim of Amy McKendrick, one of the plaintiffs was to create awareness among consumers that packaging can deceive them into believing the snacks are healthy and natural, rather than a combination of processed ingredients.
Amy’s six year-old daughter was diagnosed with early onset bipolar disease, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety.
In order to control her daughter's condition, Amy decided to remove all foods with dyes and processed ingredients from her diet.
She bought Nature Valley Chewy Trail Mix Fruit & Nut Granola Bars, Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nut Cashew Granola Bars and Nature Valley Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Granola Thins believing them to be “100% Natural”.
To her utter dismay research revealed that Nature Valley products contained processed ingredients.
Amy stated, “My daughter’s special diet requires that I select natural products and avoid artificial dyes, sweeteners, or additives—and I’m willing to pay a little bit more for products that are truly ‘all natural'. Who would assume that a ’100% Natural’ product from a company called Nature Valley would have these factory-refined ingredients?”