A proposed class action claims Pepperidge Farm, Inc. and parent company Campbell Soup Company have misleadingly labeled Goldfish brand snack crackers as containing “0g Sugars” without clarifying that the products are not, in fact, a low-calorie or reduced-calorie food.
The lawsuit argues that the “0g Sugars” or “0g Total Sugars” claim on the Goldfish products’ front label absent any qualifying statements that the snacks are “not a low calorie food,” “not a reduced calorie food” or “not for weight control” is materially misleading to consumers given the Goldfish snacks do contain a significant amount of calories and at least some sugar.
Per the case, the defendants have overstepped food labeling regulations that mandate the use of such warnings when a food makes a specific type of nutrient content claim, such as those relating to sugar content.
“In choosing to label Goldfish as having ‘0g Sugars’ on their principal display panels, Defendants have subjected themselves to the regulatory requirements related to such nutrition content claims and are therefore required to make these material disclosures so that consumers can make informed choices about the food they eat,” the complaint alleges. “Yet, Defendants have failed to do so.”
The lawsuit explains that because consumers associate foods’ sugar content with calorie content, they could be easily misled into believing a food labeled as containing little or no sugar would not contain a significant amount of calories. In light of this association, the FDA requires that when a product is labeled as having no sugar yet is not what the agency considers a low- or reduced-calorie food, its label also must contain warnings that the product is “not a low calorie food,” “not a reduced calorie food” or “not for weight control” in order to avoid misleading consumers, the case relays.
Per the suit, foods with a reference amount customarily consumed (RACC) of 30 grams, which include snacks such as Goldfish, must contain 40 calories or less per 30 grams to be considered “low calorie.” The Goldfish products at issue, however, contain 140 calories per 30-gram serving and therefore do not meet the requirement for “low calorie” foods, the case alleges.
Moreover, the suit says, products considered to be “reduced calorie” foods must contain 25 percent fewer calories per RACC than the appropriate reference food, according to the FDA. The Goldfish products’ labels, however, do not reference any other food that the snack is meant to replace, and similar snack cracker products contain a similar calorie count per RACC, the lawsuit attests.
As such, the Goldfish snacks should have contained warnings along with their “0g Sugars” claims that the products are not low-calorie or reduced-calorie foods and not meant for weight control, according to the complaint.
The suit goes on to claim that the defendants were not permitted to claim that the Goldfish products contain “0g Sugars” given they do, in fact, contain sugar itself or other ingredients that naturally contain the sweetener. While the FDA does permit food manufacturers to round down a food’s stated sugar content to zero if it contains 0.5 grams or less, the defendants are not permitted to do so on the Goldfish products’ principal display panel, i.e., the front label, given they failed to include the aforementioned warnings regarding the snack’s calorie content, the lawsuit argues. The “0g Sugars” claim is “literally false,” according to the case, since all of the Goldfish products contain sugar or an ingredient that naturally contains sugar, such as wheat flour.
Per the suit, Campbell and Pepperidge Farm have attempted to use the “0g Sugars” claim to obtain a competitive advantage over competitors’ properly labeled baked snack crackers.
The lawsuit claims the following Goldfish products were misleadingly labeled as having “0g Sugars”:
Organic Cheddar Goldfish;
Organic Original Goldfish;
Whole Grain Cheddar Goldfish;
Flavor Blasted Cheesy Pizza Goldfish;
Flavor Blasted Xplosive Pizza Goldfish;
Baby Cheddar Goldfish;
Mix Cheesy Pizza + Parmesan Goldfish;
Organic Parmesan Goldfish;
Whole Grain XTRA Cheddar Goldfish;
Colors Cheddar Goldfish;
Disney Mickey Mouse Goldfish;
Whole Grain Colors Cheddar Goldfish; and
Flavor Blasted XTRA Cheddar Goldfish.
The case, initially filed in Alameda County, California Superior Court, was removed to the state’s Northern District Court on August 3.
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