BROOKLYN, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) – Nestle currently finds itself in some hot water over its Gerber Good Start baby food, as a class action lawsuit has been filed accusing the food company of negligent misrepresentation. Nestle, however, claims it has done nothing wrong and plans to vigorously defend itself against the allegations.

A class action lawsuit was filed Jan. 6 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York by Wendy Manemeit that alleges Gerber Products Co. (doing business as Nestle Nutrition, Nestle Infant Nutrition and Nestle Nutrition North America) marketed Good Start as reducing the susceptibility of infants to develop allergies when the Food and Drug Administration, in fact, failed to validate those claims.

Manemeit claims to have suffered damages through the purchase of Good Start and is seeking restitution and disgorgement, actual, statutory, punitive damages, interest and legal fees from Nestle.

For its part, Nestle/Gerber plans take on the lawsuit directly in court. In a statement provided through Cathy Dunn of the Corporate Affairs office, Nestle told Legal Newsline: "We are defending our position because we believe we have met, and will continue to meet, all legal requirements to make these product claims." 

This is not the first time this issue with Good Start has been contended. Back in October 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit against Gerber/Nestle wanting the company to remove the health claims from the Good Start product. 

The ingredient in question, hydrolyzed whey protein concentrate, was approved by the FDA in 2009 to help treat atopic dermatitis, but it was not approved to reduce the risk for other types of skin allergies.

Gerber/Nestle was also required to quantify its advertising statements that despite the product's approval, "there was little scientific evidence to back it up."  

The FTC alleged in its lawsuit that Gerber/Nestle both failed to meet that requirement and misrepresented the nature of its claims and the FDA responded by issuing a warning letter to Gerber/Nestle. Now the lawsuit from Manemeit is claiming similar allegations. 

Nestle addressed these issues in the statement via Dunn by saying, "Extensive, peer-reviewed scientific evidence supports the role of 100 percent whey protein partially hydrolyzed infant formula in reducing the risk of atopic dermatitis, commonly known as baby eczema, in infants with a family history of allergy. Further, Gerber has been authorized by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to feature a qualified health claim based on this evidence."

Nestle/Gerber also faced a class action suit filed in 2015 from Oula Zakaria. That suit, which features thousands of buyers, was approved in January of 2016 to proceed as class action over alleged misrepresentation through advertising, so this has been a recurring issue for Nestle/Gerber for the last several years.

"Gerber always has and will continue to treat its mission of delivering nutrition and benefits to infants as its top priority," Dunn said. "We believe the information conveyed in our marketing is important for parents who have children at risk for atopic dermatitis, the most common allergy in infancy."

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