SAN DIEGO (CN) – A federal class action complaint claims that Kashi and Kellogg mislabel their products as “all natural” and free of artificial ingredients, though the “defendants knew these claims to be false.” One such product is “composed almost entirely of synthetic and unnaturally processed ingredients,” the class claims.
Lead plaintiff Michael Bates, of Texas, sued La Jolla-based Kashi Co., which Kellogg bought in 2000 and controls as a wholly owned subsidiary.
“Since at least 1999, defendants prominently displayed the promises ‘all natural’ and/or ‘nothing artificial’ on the front labels of almost all of its products, cultivating a healthy and socially conscious image in an effort to promote the sale of these products. Defendants knew these claims to be false,” the complaint states.
Bates’ attorney, Yvette Golan with the Houston-based Golan Law Firm, told Courthouse News in a statement that “in some cases” substances in Kashi products were “hazardous” and violated “both Kashi’s and the FDA’s definition of the term ‘natural.'”
“Consumers must and do rely on food companies to give truthful information about their food products. While a food company need not provide all-natural ingredients, it cannot falsely label its products as ‘all natural’ in the hopes of capturing the growing natural-foods market,” Golan said.
“Because of the strain on resources, the FDA has not adopted a rule for its policy on labeling foods as ‘natural.’ The agency also does not require pre-market label approval. It thus falls on consumers to ensure that food companies remain honest about their ingredients,” the attorney added.
The class action claims Kashi “inserted a spectacular array of unnaturally processed and synthetic ingredients to its so-called ‘all natural’ products” which include bars, cereals, shakes, cookies, crackers, pita crisps, waffles and pizza.
“For example, Kashi’s so-called ‘All Natural’ GoLean Shakes are composed almost entirely of synthetic and unnaturally processed ingredients, including sodium molybdate, phytonadione, sodium selenite, magnesium phosphate, niacinamide, calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamin hydrochloride, potassium iodide, and other substances that have been declared to be synthetic substances by federal regulations,” the complaint states.
Bates claims that many of the “fraudulently labeled” products contain more artificial ingredients than natural ones and make “deceptive” health claims.
“Many of these ingredients are shocking, especially given defendants’ heavily market ‘Real Foods Values.’ For example, defendants added several ingredients that the FDA has expressly declined to declare as GRAS or ‘generally recognized as safe’ as a food additive. Defendants added synthetic substances listed as prescription drugs to its foods, irradiated substance, pesticides that are a byproduct of uranium mining, and federally declared hazardous substances. Defendants also added several highly processed excitotoxins to its products that are hidden sources of monsodium glutamate, a.k.a. ‘MSG,'” the complaint states.
The class claims that many ingredients in Kashi products are safe only because of “synthetic compounds or excessive processes” that turn them into food additives. That makes Kashi’s “all natural” claims “demonstrably false,” the class says.
Kashi products are marketed to U.S. consumers who want natural ingredients in packaged foods, as part of an expanding $22 billion industry, according to the complaint.”As a result of their false and misleading labeling, defendants were able to sell these products to hundreds of thousands of consumers throughout the United States and to profit handsomely from these transactions,” the complaint states.
The class seeks compensatory and punitive damages and statutory penalties for unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices, false advertising, violation of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, restitution based on quasi-contract/unjust enrichment, breach of express and implied warranty, fraudulent misrepresentation, concealment and constructive fraud, negligence and negligent misrepresentations, strict liability, assault and battery, and conspiracy