SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) -- General Mills has written off a lawsuit brought by two individuals who filed a class action lawsuit, accusing the company of promoting its cereals as healthy and nutritious while loading them up with sugar.
Beverly Truxel and Stephen Hadley alleged in a class action lawsuit that they suffered financial harm as a result of being misled into buying General Mills cereals that aren't as nutritious as advertised.
The two filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in late August and are represented by attorneys Jack Fitzgerald, Trevor M. Flynn and Melanie Persinger of The Law Offices of Jack Fitzgerald PC in San Diego.
The plaintiffs seek a jury trial and want General Mills ordered to amend its advertising, pay restitution and any other legal fees the court feels are appropriate. However, General Mills spokesman Mike Siemienas asserts the lawsuit is "without merit."
"Cereal has long been established as a nutritious and wholesome way to start the day, and General Mills continues to stand behind the quality of these products and the accuracy of the products' labels," Siemienas told Legal Newsline.
When asked about the sugar content of General Mills’ cereal products, Siemienas said the company is “leading the way” in increasing consumers’ consumption of whole grain.
“We currently offer 38 cereals with 9 grams of sugar or less per serving, including Cheerios with 1 gram of sugar and Kix, Corn Chex and Fiber One 80 Calorie Honey Squares with 3 grams of sugar,” he said.
The plaintiff’s counsel didn’t respond to requests to comment on the case.
Although General Mills may have been listening to consumers who want "a variety of choices," there has been interest in updated U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) information on the amount of sugar and nutrients that constitute a healthy serving of cereal, according to FDA spokeswoman Lauren Kotwicki.
"This includes a citizen petition from KIND to amend the nutrient content claim regulations to make them more consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans," Kotwicki told Legal Newsline.
The FDA has definitions and requirements for the nutrient content of a product that a company wants to market as "healthy," "healthful," "healthfully," "healthfulness" and so on, according to Kotwicki. And the administration is in the process of redefining what all of that means.
"The FDA believes the term 'healthy' on a food label is a useful tool for consumers to quickly and easily make better food choices but it needs to be updated to be consistent with current public health recommendations," Kotwicki said. "The current definition for 'healthy' is based on outdated nutrition information. For example, an emphasis on the total amount of fat [low fat foods] rather than quality of fat."
With the latest revision of the nutrition facts label announced last May, the FDA is able to update the definition of "healthy" to better align with current nutrition recommendations. Those suggestions focus on sugars, type of fat, food groups and nutrient content, according to Kotwicki.
"An updated definition will also encourage companies to make a greater variety of healthy products available to consumers through both innovation and reformulation," she said. "As there become more healthy products available in the marketplace, it will encourage consumers to choose them on a more regular basis."