Consumers are looking for foods prepared with “natural” processes and foods that claim to provide a high level of nutrition. The complaint for this class action claims that Food for Life Baking Co., Inc. falsely purports to offer such benefits in its Ezekiel 4:9 brand cereals.
The Nationwide Class for this action is all consumers in the US who bought any of the products with actionable representations, during the statutes of limitations. There is also a New York Class.
The products at issue in this case come in nine varieties. The complaint names eight, including Almond Flake, Almond Sprouted Whole Grain, Cinnamon Raisin Whole Grain, Flax & Chia Sprouted Flake, Flax Sprouted Whole Grain, Original Flake, Raisin Flake and Original Sprouted Whole Grain. It shows a box of the cereal that may be the ninth type, labeled Golden Flax.
What does Ezekiel Chapter 4, Verse 9 say? The product box quotes it as saying, “Take also unto thee Wheat and Barley and Beans and Lentils and Millet and Spelt and put them in one vessel and make bread of it.”
The back of the box claims, “Sprouting is the only way to release all of the vital nutrients stored in whole grains” and that the company’s process serves to “unlock dormant food energy and maximize nutrition and flavor.” It also says, “Beneficial enzymes are activated which cause the grains to sprout and become living food” which “increases valuable nutrients and also causes a natural change that promotes a more efficient assimilation of protein and carbohydrates.” The complaint interprets this as bioavailability.
The complaint takes issue with these claims and others. It says, “During the sprouting process, the seed is utilizing its energy resources—carbohydrates and fat—resulting in a decrease in dry matter (carbohydrates).” Since there is less dry matter, “the percentage of what remains automatically increases, even if the actual quantity remains constant.” So “the apparent increases in protein and other nutrients reflect a loss of carbohydrates (dry matter)” rather than a real increase in the amount of protein or nutrients.
Also, the complaint says, since the products don’t name any reference foods to which they compare sprouted grains, their claims cannot be accurately evaluated. Furthermore, the complaint says the increase biolavailability is a result of the “purported ability to reduce the amount of antinutrients” in the grain, another claim it finds misleading.
And the company claims that the grains are a “living food” and makes a “live grain difference[,]” which the complaint says is misleading in that “by the time the sprouted grain is dried, grounded [sic] into flour and heated, any nutritional benefits which may have existed have been extinguished.”
The complaint claims violations of New York’s General Business Law, breaches of warranty, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, and fraud.