Three proposed class actions filed on the same day this week claim the “false and misleading” labeling of toddler transition formulas made by Mead Johnson & Company, Gerber Products Company and Target Corporation have deceptively implied that the products are nutritionally appropriate for toddlers.
At the center of the lawsuits is the fact that the names and marketing claims of Enfagrow Premium Toddler Transitions, Gerber Good Start Grow Stage 3, and Up&Up brand Toddler Next Stage milk-based powders are “confusingly similar” to that of the defendants’ formula products intended for infants.
In essence, the cases argue that consumers are misled into believing the milk drink powders contain all the nutrients toddlers need in the same way that infant formulas are considered to be nutritionally appropriate for infants. In truth, the lawsuits claim, the products offer “no unique nutritional value beyond what could be achieved through a nutritionally adequate diet” and contain added sugars not recommended for children under two years old.
According to the cases, the similar labeling of the toddler and infant formula products “causes caregivers to make inaccurate and ill-advised nutritional purchasing decisions” that end up being more expensive than buying the nutritionally superior foods recommended by experts.
In all, the lawsuits allege that the toddler transition formula products are no more than “expensive, re-branded, infant formula” that consumers would not have purchased, or would have paid less for, had they not been deceived by the defendants’ labeling.
The Emergence of Toddler Transition Formulas
According to the three lawsuits, all filed on November 15, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life, followed by the addition of complementary foods and the continuation of breastfeeding until the child is at least 12 months old.
When infants reach 12 months of age, experts recommend a diet of whole plain cow’s milk, water and healthy foods, according to the suits.
Iron-fortified infant formula is recommended for infants who are not breastfed and is legally defined as a product for use by children not more than 12 months old, the cases explain.
As the suits tell it, increasing rates of breastfeeding since 2003 have led to decreasing sales of infant formula. To make up for falling sales, companies such as the defendants have introduced “transition formulas,” also called “follow-on formulas,” “weaning formulas,” “toddler milks” and “growing-up milks,” for children 12 months or older, per the complaints.
The lawsuits allege that given the toddler transition formulas consist of a milk-based powder with added nutrients, they are “practically identical” to formulas marketed for use by infants—a fact emphasized by the “confusingly similar names”:
· Enfamil “Infant Formula, Milk-based Powder with Iron” and Enfagrow “Infant & Toddler Formula, Milk-based Powder with Iron”
· Good Start “Infant Formula with Iron, Milk Based Powder” and Good Start “Toddler Drink, Milk Based Powder”
· Up&Up “Infant Formula with Iron, Milk-Based Powder” and Up&Up “Toddler Next Stage, Milk Drink Powder”
According to the lawsuits, the names of the toddler formulas do not clearly state what they are in terms that distinguish the products from the infant formulas. The similar names, coupled with the claims, statements and designs of the infant and toddler products lead caregivers to believe that the toddler formulas are nutritionally appropriate for the targeted age groups—nine to 18 months for the Enfagrow product, 12 to 24 months for the Good Start product, and above 12 months for the Up&Up product—and falsely imply that infants and young toddlers have the same nutrient requirements, the suits say.
Moreover, the labels for the Enfagrow and Up&Up products are additionally misleading in that they display an infant formula nutrition panel on a product not intended for infants, giving caregivers the false impression that the products were subject to the same scrutiny and oversight as infant formula products.
“Caregivers receive the incorrect impression that the Product was reviewed by the FDA for use and consumption for their children [between nine and 18 months or older than 12 months], when this is not the case,” the lawsuits read.
Toddler Transition Formulas Contain Fewer Nutrients, More Sugar Than Consumers Expect, Suits Say
The lawsuits argue that, contrary to consumers’ expectations, the Enfagrow, Good Start and Up&Up toddler transition products are not a nutritionally appropriate alternative for toddlers to the expert-recommended diet of cow’s milk, water and healthy foods.
Compared to whole cow’s milk, the defendants’ products generally contain less protein and more carbohydrates and fat, according to the cases.
On top of that, the suits allege that the similarity of the toddler formula labels to that of infant formulas causes caregivers to be more unlikely to notice that the three products contain added sugars, an ingredient that is “inconsistent and contrary” to the nutritional needs of children in each of the products’ age ranges.
Citing a recent study of caregivers’ understanding of transition formula labeling, the lawsuits state that 52 percent of those surveyed believed the products would “give toddlers nutrition that they wouldn’t get from other sources,” while 70 percent of respondents believed the toddler formulas were a suitable drink for children in the marketed age range. Per the complaints, such beliefs are not accurate given experts agree that toddler formulas offer “no unique nutritional value beyond what could be achieved through a nutritionally adequate diet.”
The lawsuits add that the defendants’ products are up to four times more expensive than whole cow’s milk.
According to the suits, the branding and packaging of the Enfagrow, Good Start and Up&Up products were “designed to—and [do]—deceive, mislead, and defraud” consumers, who would not have purchased the products, or would have paid less for them, absent the formula makers’ deceptive advertising.
Who Are the Lawsuits Looking to Cover?
The three cases respectively look to represent New York residents who purchased Enfagrow Premium Toddler Transitions, Gerber Good Start Toddler Drink, or Up&Up Toddler Next Stage products during the applicable statute of limitations period.
What If I Don’t Live in New York?
These three lawsuits are only looking to cover New York residents. If you live in another state, you may want to reach out to an attorney in your area to find out about your legal rights and options.
To find out more about how to start a class action, click here.
How Do I Join the Lawsuits?
At this time, there’s nothing you need to do to join one of the lawsuits discussed on this page. If one or more of the cases move forward and settle, anyone affected should then have an opportunity to claim whatever compensation the court deems just. Find out more about the process here.
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