NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) – A New York resident has filed a suit against Nestle USA Inc. over claims that she was deceived by the company’s marketing of its Lean Cuisine frozen meals as being “preservative free.”

Courtney Ross filed the suit against Nestle USA in the Southern District Court of New York in early December alleging the company practiced deceptive marketing of its Lean Cuisine frozen meals, as well as violated the state’s deceptive and unfair trade practices act because the frozen pizza contained citric acid, an ingredient which the FDA classifies as a preservative. She claims she purchased one of the Lean Cuisine frozen pizzas for $3.39 in Manhattan several months ago.

Ross’ suit claims that the Lean Cuisine frozen pizza which she purchased “did not deliver what it promised” and that the plaintiff “paid the above sum on the assumption that this was for food free of preservatives and would not have paid this money had she known that it contained preservatives,” according to the suit.

In response to the consumer lawsuit, Nestle says the allegations against the company are false and that they will fight to defend its products and labeling which its claims are in line with federal regulations.

“The allegations are baseless and we will vigorously defend ourselves,” Nestle’s Manager of Corporate Communications Liz Caselli-Mechael told Legal Newsline recently. “All Nestle products and labels comply with FDA and USDA regulations.”

The class action suit lists more than 35 Lean Cuisine products which Nestle "continues to sell to consumers" that contain citric acid, yet have “misleading ‘no preservatives’ language,” according to the court documents.

The suit also claims that Nestle “wrongfully capitalized on, and reaped enormous profits from consumers’ strong preference for food products made free of preservatives.” The suit then goes on to state that Nestle’s alleged “deceptive” marketing violates the consumer protection laws of New York and that the plaintiff can “not rely on the truthfulness of the packing” should she go to purchase the company’s products in the future.

The court documents site that although the product purchased by Ross is not listed on the Lean Cuisine website, it is deceptive that the “webpages again and again make defendant’s ‘no preservatives’ misrepresentation.”

Ross’ suit, which requests a trial by jury, also mentions the fact that several other manufacturers of frozen meals do not make a “no preservative” claim and “acknowledge” that their food products include citric acid to preserve flavor and freshness.

According to the FDA website, citric acid is listed in the category of preservatives used to “prevent food spoilage from bacteria, molds, fungi or yeast” and slows and “prevents changes in color, flavor, or texture.”

Nestle’s United States operations are made up of eight separate corporate entities, according to the company’s website. The entities include Nestle USA, Nestle Waters North America, Nestle Purina, Gerber, Nestle Health Science, Nestle Professional, Nestle Skin Health and Nespresso. Also according to Nestle’s website, the United States is the company’s biggest market in the world with product sales of $26 billion in 2015. Nestle, with more than 80 factories in almost all 50 states, reports that 97 percent of households in the U.S. purchase its products.

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