Big Sugar, in the Form of Cereal Makers, Get Sued

 

Several major processed food manufacturers in the U.S. have been hit recently with lawsuits charging their products– primarily breakfast cereals – are not anything like as ‘healthy’ as the manufacturers claim because too high a percentage of the calories in their products are from sugar.

The website foodnavigator-usa.com has reported that “a flurry of lawsuits recently [were] filed against Kellogg, General Foods and Post Foods”, but the site suggests the plaintiffs with “face an uphill battle” trying to win against companies that have powerful holds on their markets and exceptionally deep pockets.

The recently revealed news that half a century ago the sugar industry paid university researchers to produce ‘study findings’ favorable to their mainstay product has added pressure on producers of sugar-heavy foods.

FoodNavigator said that, “with the heat temporarily off fat, sugar now is Public Enemy #1,” quoting defense attorneys “after the three CPG [consumer packaged goods] giants were hit with class action lawsuits over the sugar content in leading cereal brands from Raisin Bran Crunch to Cheerios.”

Filed in the Northern District of California, the suits accuse the defendants “of falsely advertising their cereals as healthy, wholesome and nutritious when they are in fact high in sugar – excessive amounts of which,” they claim, “are linked to everything from heart disease and type 2 diabetes to cancers, cognitive decline and liver disease.”

The website notes that, while there are no specific regulations that disqualify companies from describing a product as ‘healthy’ or ‘nutritious’ based on its sugar content, the plaintiffs argue that “federal regulations enshrined in California state law require that labels are ‘not false or misleading’. They further allege violations of California’s false advertising and unfair competition laws, and seek redress under the state’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act.

Big Sugar, like such other ‘bigs’ as Big Pharma, Big Oil and, once upon a time, Big Coal, have a history of addressing such lawsuits as if they were pesky flies: Swat at them long and hard enough – wearing down their resistance and consuming their ability to fight back – and ‘big’ will prevail.

But the biggest of the bigs – Big Government – has brought down Big Coal, and is working on putting a leash on Big Pharma.

With the public becoming increasingly aware of the damage excess sugar can to do consumers of it, Big Sugar could be in for a comeuppance, too. Maybe not immediately, but soon.

Dr. Cristin E. Kearns
Documents that Dr. Cristin E. Kearns calls the “sugar papers” in her office in the Library at the Center for Tobacco Control and Research on the U. of California  Parnassus Campus. 


 Photo: Elizabeth D. Herman for STAT News

 

 

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