SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Learning that one’s favorite healthy snack might not be so healthy after all can be a heartbreaking experience. Just ask the ice cream lovers suing Rebel Creamery.
At issue are the Utah-based company's assertions that its ice creams contain healthy fats such as those found in olive and avocado oil, fish, nuts and seeds.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Hixson issued a decision late Thursday denying part of Rebel's motion for dismissal while leaving open the chance for the plaintiffs to amend their complaint and continue with the suit.
In their class action filed against Rebel last July, Angela Davis of California and Bonnie Bennett of Michigan took issue with the creamery’s claims that its products are “nutritious and healthful to consume,” particularly when compared with other similar products.
They drew particular attention one description on the ice cream labels: “Many have discovered that eating foods high in healthy fats and low in carbs/sugar trains your body to burn fat instead of sugar as an energy source. Common benefits people may experience on a low carb, high fat diet are weight loss, increased energy, suppressed appetite, and mental clarity.”
Davis and Bennett say those claims are false because Rebel's ice cream contains “high amounts of unsafe fats which increase the risk of severe health issues, including coronary heart disease – the number one killer of Americans every year.” They also say there is no definition of low-carb under federal guidelines, and unless the food is low in fat, low in saturated fat, and below certain cholesterol levels, Rebel can’t use those terms.
For its part, Rebel argues its targeted consumers – people following a Keto diet – wouldn’t have been misled by those claims. But the analysis of those claims, the plaintiffs say, should be based on the reasonable consumer, not the reasonable consumer of Keto products.
Rebel sought to have the suit dismissed with prejudice, arguing the consumers failed to establish any claims to which the court could respond.
Hixson partially agreed in his 15-page decision.
The consumers, he said, were on solid ground in their allegations over the labeling on the products themselves, but not in their claims related to online advertising.
Both Davis and Bennett “saw and relied upon defendant’s marketing and labeling representing that the products were healthy, healthful, better for her, and a healthier alternative to the competition," the magistrate wrote. (Emphasis in original.)
But while their complaints about labeling are well-documented, the ones about marketing fell short, Hixson said, agreeing with Rebel that the plaintiffs had failed to specify anything in the ice cream company’s online advertising that could be used as evidence.
Representatives for the consumers and the company did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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