A nonprofit nutrition and health watchdog group and a California mother are at the center of a complaint that alleges General Mills misled consumers about the nutritional and health qualities of its fruit snacks including Fruit Roll-Ups and Fruit by the Foot.
The complaint filed Oct. 14 at the United States District Court of Northern District of California alleges the company made “misleading statements that its products were nutritious, healthful to consume and better than similar fruit snacks” but the products contain ”trans fat, added sugars, artificial dyes, lacked significant amounts of real natural fruit, and had no dietary fiber.”
“General Mills has misled parents into thinking this isn’t junk,” Stephen Gardner, director of litigation for the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest, told ABCNews.
“Selling these fruit snacks was little better than giving candy to children,” according to the complaint.
General Mills, in a statement to ABCNews.com, said: ”To our knowledge we have not been served with any lawsuit. But it would not be unusual for CSPI to put out a press release before actually serving a lawsuit. We cannot comment further at this point…We stand behind our products–and we stand behind the accuracy of the labeling of those products.”
“I do think products that include fruit in their names and sport pictures of fruits on their packaging- should be made mostly, or at least partly, from those fruits,” Dr. David Katz, a director at Yale University Prevention Research Center, wrote in an email to ABCNews.com.
So what’s in the product? An online label for Fruit Roll-Ups Blastin’ Berry Hot Colors on the company website lists the ingredients for the product as pears from concentrate, corn syrup, sugar, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil contains 2% or less of: citrium acid, sodium citrate, acetylated, monoglycerides, fruit pectin, dextrose, malic acid, vitamin C, and natural flavor color. Above the nutrition facts the label says: “MADE WITH REAL FRUIT” in red lettering.
“I think the claims by General Mills are consistent with allowed language, ” said Keith Ayoob, associate Clinical Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “I’m thinking if they have a complaint they may better address it to the FDA or USDA. I assume their claims are legitimate and in compliance with regulation and, if they’re not, the federal government has to get involved.”
Ayoob said he encourage parents to read product labels. ”If there are ingredients that you choose to not give to your child, then you have the right to do so. These are not a necessary food or a required food. It’s not something that children have to have in their diet.”