OAKLAND, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - A class action lawsuit has been filed in California against Marie Callender after a man claims its baking mixes are falsely advertised as "all natural."

The lawsuit against Marie Callender Pie Shops Inc., Marie Callender's Gourmet Products Division ICC and Conagra Foods RDM Inc. claims that the falsely advertised "all natural" baking mixes actually contain synthetic ingredients.

The predominant issue in the class action complaint is the use of sodium acid pyrophosphate, an odorless white power that is a chemical that must be created synthetically, according to a complaint filed May 1 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Edward Musgrave claims sodium acid pyrophosphate is used in many different applications, such as leather treatment, removal of iron stains on hides during processing, stabilizing hydrogen peroxide solutions against reduction, facilitating hair removal in hog slaughter and feather removal from birds in poultry slaughter.

The defendants use SAPP in their all natural products that they sell to consumers and label the products as all natural, according to the suit.

"Not only is SAPP a synthetic ingredient, but excessive use can lead to imbalanced levels of minerals in the body and bone loss," the complaint states.

Musgrave claims the defendants engaged in a fraudulent advertising and marketing scheme because they knew that their target market values "all natural" food products and will pay more for these items due to the association consumers make between "all natural" food products and a wholesome way of life, the perceived higher quality, health and safety benefits of the products, and/or low impact on the environment.

As such, the defendants' "all natural" labeling is central to their marketing of the products and part of their overall strategy to capture the rapidly expanding natural foods market, according to the suit.

Musgrave claims due to the allegedly deceptive labeling of the products, he suffered an economic injury because he otherwise would not have purchased the Marie Callender's products.

"Since...plaintiff and the members of the classes are not at fault for failing to discover defendants' wrongs before now and, thus, had no actual or presumptive knowledge of facts sufficient to put them on inquiry, and since...defendants have concealed and suppressed the true characteristics of the products, defendants' continuing concealment tolls the applicable statute of limitations," the complaint states.

Musgrave claims the Marie Callender products that allegedly contain the synthetic ingredient include Marie Callender's Original Corn Bread Mix, Marie Callender's Cord Bread Muffin Mix, Marie Callender's All Purpose Biscuit Mix, Marie Callender's Sweet Potato Muffin Mix, Marie Callender's Honey Butter Corn Bread and Muffin Mix and Marie Callender's Multigrain Muffin Mix.

Musgrave claims as a direct and proximate result of the defendants' unfair and wrongful conduct, he and class members were misled into purchasing the products; received a product that failed to meet their reasonable expectations and the defendants' promises; and paid a sum of money for a product that was not as represented and, thus, were deprived of the benefit of the bargain because the purchased products had less value than what was represented by the defendants.

The defendants' caused the plaintiff and class members to ingest a substance that was other than what was represented by the defendants and that the plaintiff and class members did not expect or give informed consent to and they were caused to ingest a product that did not bring about the health benefits the defendants promised, and which may be harmful to health, according to the suit.

Musgrave is seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. He is being represented by Molly A. DeSario of Scott Cole & Associates.

The class action follows a growing number of food mislabeling class action lawsuits filed mainly in federal courts in California that focus mainly on labels using claims the products are all natural when they are not.

In March, Heinz was sued when a woman claimed its "all natural" vinegar contained genetically modified corn.

Trader Joe's agreed to a $3.375 million settlement in February over alleged mislabeling of products as "all natural" or "100% natural" that actually contained synthetic ingredients.

The FDA is currently hearing comments regarding whether or not food labels should be allowed to use these terms.

The case has been assigned to District Judge Donna M. Ryu.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California case number: 4:14-cv-02006

From Legal Newsline: Kyla Asbury can be reached at classactions@legalnewsline.com.

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