The complaint begins with strong line: “The scientific evidence is compelling: Excessive consumption of added sugar is toxic to the human body.” The allegations? That Kellogg Sales Company adds sugar to its products but markets them as being healthy choices.
The class for this action is all persons who bought in New York, for personal, family, or household use and not for resale, high-sugar Kellogg cereals or snack bars bearing health and wellness claims, at any time between May 28, 2013 and the date the class is notified in this case.
About a third of the 150-page complaint is dedicated to the increase of sugar consumption in the US and the harm caused by excessive sugar. The complaint says, “Experimentally sound, peer-reviewed studies and meta-analyses convincingly show that consuming excessive added sugar—any amount above approximately 5% of daily caloric intake—greatly increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, and a wide variety of other chronic morbidity.”
Nevertheless, despite “compelling evidence that sugar acts as a chronic liver toxin … Kellogg leverages a policy and practice of marketing high-sugar cereals and bars with health and wellness claims, which are deceptive because they are incompatible with the dangers of the excessive sugar consumption to which these foods contribute.”
According to the complaint, “Approximately 90% of the population exceeds recommended daily limits” on added sugar.
Furthermore, the complaint claims that “for some people, eating sugar produces characteristics of craving and withdrawal, along with chemical changes in the brain’s reward center, the limbic region, which can be similar to those of people addicted to drugs like cocaine and alcohol.”
Kellogg sells breakfast cereals, along with snack bars under the brand name Nutri-Grain. At issue in this case are varieties of the following:
Because consumers are looking for healthier food choices, Kellogg markets its foods as “healthy.” Kellogg labels even high-sugar cereals and bars with health and wellness claims, the complaint says.
The complaint quotes phrases from the marketing and packaging of these items, including “heart healthy,” “healthy investments,” “nutrients for every day,” “healthy benefits,” “positively nutritious,” “Eat Better All Day,” “wholesome goodness,” and “better overall health,” and even certain product names.
Even more insidious are claims like, “Starting the day with a balanced, great-tasting breakfast can put you on the fast track to good nutrition and better overall health,” and “Help support healthy cells throughout the body.”
The marketing focuses on whole grain, fiber, and fruit content, the complaint says, to take the attention off the sugar content.
In doing all this, the complaint alleges that Kellogg has violated state and federal laws on food labeling and health and wellness statements. It also claims that the company’s website contributes to misinformation.