Consumers how prefer foods with fewer, and purer, ingredients, so companies sometimes may be less than frank about what goes into their products. The complaint for this class action claims that Small Planet Foods, Inc. does not disclose all the contents of its Larabars that are made with dates.
The Nationwide Class for this action is all consumers in all states who purchased any Larabar products with actionable representations during the statutes of limitations. A New York State Class has also been proposed.
Consumers will pay more for foods made with fewer ingredients and those with “whole” ingredients, because they believe they are healthier. Because of this, some companies have fudged their ingredient listings, using “collective” names for ingredients. But this is considered a misleading practice.
For example, the ingredients for tomato sauce can properly be listed as “Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Diced Tomatoes.” It would not be accurate to list them simply as “Tomatoes” because there are big differences between tomato puree and a whole tomato. To use only the word “tomato” would suggest that the product is less processed, fresher, and more valuable. In reality, the tomatoes have been processed and water has been added.
In this case, the primary concern is dates. The complaint claims that nineteen of the twenty-four varieties of Larabars contain dates. They are listed in the ingredient panels only as “dates.”
The complaint asserts that dates are grown in the US only in limited quantities, not enough to satisfy the needs of the market. Most dates are grown in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, the complaint says, and processed near where they are grown. The complaint says that dates are turned into date paste, and that either ascorbic acid or citric acid must be added to prevent hardening, microbial spoilage, darkening, and limited shelf life. These two substances are preservatives, and the complaint claims they should be listed on the ingredient panel.
Another problem cited by the complaint is the emphasis on the “fruit” component of the bars. The products claim to contain the equivalent of a half of a cup of fruit. But the complaint says this is not likely to be true.
For one thing, dates have high sugar concentration, at around 80% and low water content, at around 20%—and this is before they are dried.
Also, the complaint figures that, to contain a half cup of fruit, the bar would have to contain a quarter of a cup of dried fruit. With the dates, this would mean that, say, the apple and raisin contents would have to be equal to one eighth of a cup. But the complaint says this is not likely to be true. It claims that the word “fruit” masks the high amount of sugar contained in the bars.
The complaint claims that the marketing of the bars as healthy, fresh, and made from “fruit” is deceptive and misleading.