SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) -- Pinnacle Foods - the maker of such well-known products as Swanson pot pies, Hungry-Man frozen meals and Duncan Hines cake
mixes - is facing a class action suit in California, alleging the company
engages in false advertising in the promotion of some of its food products.
Ian Anderson filed the class action suit against Pinnacle Foods Inc. in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in late
November, alleging the company deceptively markets foods containing the
banned substance trans fats. The suit says Pinnacle attaches labels to food products falsely claiming they are free of all such ingredients.
In his complaint, Anderson argues Pinnacle
makes use of a partially hydrogenated oil that has been banned as a food additive in the U.S. and other parts of the world because of its high levels of
artificial trans fats.
He further contends Pinnacle officials conspired
to keep consumers in the dark about its use of such ingredients, all for the
purposes of inducing shoppers to continue to pay a premium price for a product that
could be harmful to consumers even as they’ve been led to believe it’s of the
“I’m glad that consumer protection advocates
are standing up for our community against mislabeled foods,” California State
Sen. Tony Mendoza told Legal Newsline.
Mendoza previously spearheaded the drive
and sponsored the legislation that made California among the first states to
partially ban trans fats in the making of foods prepared at so-called “food
facilities” such as restaurants, bakeries, delicatessens and cafeterias.
He said at the time, “Trans
fats kill people. They have no nutritional value.”
A spokesperson for
Pinnacle Foods has failed to respond to repeated calls and messages left seeking
Typically found in such foods as
margarine, fast foods, biscuits, cakes and pastries, trans fats can give
foods a longer shelf live, but are known to increase the risk of such devastating
afflictions as heart disease, colon cancer, infertility and depression. A
recent Harvard University School of Public Health study estimated that the food
additive contributes to more than 30,000 deaths per year.
Anderson seeks trial by jury, compensatory and punitive
damages, restitution and interest, plus an injunction requiring Pinnacle to
stop producing, marketing or distributing foods that contain partially
hydrogenated oil and to recall and destroy all such products that already have been
In support of his argument, Anderson
points to a 2006 Federal Drug Administration rule that requires food
manufactures to disclose their products’ trans fats content on the label of the
packaging. More recently, the government moved to completely ban the use of
trans fatty acids in manufactured foods and gave manufacturers just three years
to comply with the order.
Anderson and the class are being
represented by attorneys Reuben D. Nathan of Nathan &
Associates APC in Newport Beach, California, and by Ross Cornell of Law Offices
of Ross Cornell APC in Long Beach, California.