General Mills is the target of a new lawsuit filed by two California mothers, who allege the corporation deceptively markets its Nature Valley products as natural.
The New York Times writes that the lawsuit, which the women hope to turn into a class action, claims the healthy look of Nature Valley's snack packaging is misleading, and that the products actually contain highly processed ingredients.
The suit takes aim at three ingredients in particular: the sweeteners high fructose corn syrup and high maltose corn syrup and a thickening agent maltodextrin, which also adds sweetness.
Nature Valley removed high fructose corn syrup from most of its products in 2010 when concern was raised, but the remaining two ingredients are still used.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is serving as co-counsel in the suit, and offers more insight into the case on its website:
"High maltose corn syrup and maltodextrin are highly processed, do not exist in nature, and not even under the most elastic possible definition could they be considered 'natural,'" said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. ...
Besides the deceptive labeling and marketing copy on packages, Nature Valley's web and social media presence surrounds itself with images of forests, mountains, lakes, deserts, beaches, and other natural imagery, and shows hikers, backpackers, and divers eating the products. A caption reads, "[N]o matter how many flavors we create, you can be assured that with Nature Valley you’re always getting The Taste Nature Intended."
This isn't the first time CSPI has met General Mills in court. Last year, CSPI sued the Minnesota-based company for false advertising, saying it marketed its Fruit Roll-Ups and other products as healthy when they were in reality "very cheap candy."
General Mills also faces another lawsuit that alleges deceptive advertising practices. Earlier this year, a consumer lawsuit filed by Minneapolis law firm Zimmerman Reed called foul on the company Greek yogurt, saying the product is neither Greek nor yogurt. At the heart of the issue is General Mills' use of a thickener called "milk protein concentrate," which is made by filtering skim milk to remove non-protein elements.
Some Greek yogurt traditionalists have decried the ingredient as a short cut used to mimic the appearance of Greek yogurt.