May a company legally market a line of breakfast products as being for people “who have health and wellness in mind” if they contain substantial amounts of sugar? The complaint for this class action says no.
The class for this action is all persons in California who bought the belVita Products for personal or household use and not for resale.
The belVita products at issue in this case are the following, each offering a range of different flavors:
The complaint spends roughly thirty of its seventy pages detailing the health effects of excessive sugar intake, quoting one scientific study after another, and comparing the effects on the body of differing sugars, including glucose, fructose, and sucrose.
According to the complaint, excess sugar intake causes a number of conditions or diseases:
It also claims that sugar is “associated with” Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive decline, and that it is linked to some cancers.
The result, the complaint alleges, is that the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that sugar intake be restricted to 5% of calories in a person’s daily diet. (The FDA acknowledges that 5% is preferable but finds that 10% is “more realistic considering current consumption of added sugars in the United States…”)
The belVita products are marketed to appeal to health-conscious consumers, the complaint alleges, with package labels promising “4 hours of nutritious steady energy” among other things.
Packaging for the Crunchy biscuits says, “Power up, people. We worked closely with nutritionists to design a new kind of breakfast biscuit with energy for the morning. Energy that is nutritious and sustained. BelVita breakfast biscuits are specifically baked to release energy regularly and continuously to fuel your body throughout the morning. Enjoy belVita Breakfast biscuits as part of a balanced breakfast.” Yet the product contains 10-12 grams of sugar per serving—for women, up to 48% of their AHA-recommended sugar intake for the day.
BelVita Sandwiches have 10-14 grams of added sugar, up to 56% of the AHA-recommended sugar intake for women for the day, yet the package touts the product as “a nutritious, convenient breakfast choice that contains slow-release carbs from wholesome grains to help fuel your body for 4 hours”.
The complaint claims that the company has also paid a nutritionist to make scripted endorsements on its website, Facebook page, and YouTube videos, and that it has paid bloogers to promote the products with rave reviews based on promotional scripts.
According to the complaint, belVita products are misbranded under California and federal law, and they violate unfair competition and false advertising statutes, among other things.