A proposed class action lawsuit out of New York claims defendant Nestlé USA, Inc. deceived consumers by fraudulently marketing and advertising its Lean Cuisine frozen meals as containing no preservatives. According to the 27-page complaint, each offering in Nestle’s lineup of Lean Cuisine meals contains citric acid, a common preservative found in commercial foods and drinks.
“By deceptively marketing the products as having ‘No Preservatives,’ [Nestlé] wrongfully capitalized on, and reaped enormous profits from, consumers’ strong preference for food products made free of preservatives,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit mentions the below products as possibly containing citric acid despite being marketed and advertised as free of preservatives:
Lean Cuisine favorites Alfredo Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli
Lean Cuisine favorites Four Cheese Cannelloni
Lean Cuisine favorites Cheese Ravioli
Lean Cuisine favorites Chicken Enchilada Suiza
Lean Cuisine favorites Fettuccini Alfred
Lean Cuisine favorites Classic Five Cheese Lasagna
Lean Cuisine favorites Asian-Style Pot Stickers
Lean Cuisine favorites Spaghetti with Meatballs
Lean Cuisine favorites Macaroni & Cheese
Lean Cuisine favorites Chicken Fettuccini
Lean Cuisine favorites Five Cheese Rigatoni
Lean Cuisine favorites Cheddar Potatoes with Broccoli
Lean Cuisine MARKETPLACE Spicy Mexican Black Beans & Rice
Lean Cuisine Comfort Chicken Parmesan
Lean Cuisine Comfort Herb Roasted Chicken
Lean Cuisine Comfort Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes
Lean Cuisine Comfort Salisbury Steak with Macaroni & Cheese
Lean Cuisine Comfort Shrimp Alfredo
Lean Cuisine Comfort Grilled Chicken Caesar
Lean Cuisine Craveables Four Cheese Pizza
An allegation that often comes up in class actions filed over claims of deceptive advertising is that consumers would not have paid premium prices for products labeled or advertised as “natural” or “no preservatives” had they known that what they were buying contained common preservatives and man-made ingredients. What’s more, these kinds of lawsuits say food companies prey on consumers specifically looking to buy healthier, more natural foods.
The plaintiff argues she paid a premium price for a product she believed was free from preservatives and would not have made her Lean Cuisine purchase had she known it would not deliver what it promised.
Potentially bolstering the plaintiff’s argument is the fact that Nestlé’s line of DiGiorno pizzas—a product the company does not target to health-focused consumers—acknowledges citric acid as a preservative, calling it a “flavor-protector,” according to the suit.
The lawsuit seeks to cover a proposed class of New York residents who purchased any of the above-listed products within the applicable limitations period.