This class action sues Nestle for making Coffee-mate coffee creamer and a number of stores for selling it. The issue? The complaint claims that during the class period, Coffee-mate contained an unsafe additive known as partially hydrogenated oil (PHO).
The class for this action is all citizens of California who, on or after January 1, 2010, bought Coffee-mate products containing partially hydrogenated oil. The 0g Trans Fat Subclass includes those from the above class who bought the products with a “0g Trans Fat” claim on the label.
On June 16, 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its final order after a period of public comment, declaring PHO unsafe for use in food. It had been of this opinion when it originally proposed regulating PHO in 2013.
But that’s not all. The complaint claims that during the class period, Coffee-mate was labeled as having “0g Trans Fat” when in fact the complaint claims that all PHO contains trans fat and that Coffee-mate had “a substantial and dangerous amount.”
PHO was invented in 1901. It had the advantage of being cheap, being made from low-cost legumes, but it had flexibility and a long shelf life. However, the complaint claims that PHO causes cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease, and accelerates memory and mental decline.
The complaint claims, “These risks were well known during the entire class period and at no point during the class period was there ever a consensus that PHO was safe to use…” In 2005, the Institute of Medicine issued a report saying that there was “no safe level” of artificial trans fat that people could ingest and that trans fatty acids did not provide any known benefit. The complaint quotes other experts on trans fats as well.
Even before the FDA outlawed the use of trans fats in food in 2015, then, the complaint says, “its use was still unlawful because there was not a consensus of scientific experts that PHO was a safe food additive.” A number of countries and states have outlawed the use of trans fats in foods or severely restricted it.
In addition to the “0 Trans Fat” claim on the front label, the complaint claims that the product also sometimes printed on the back, “It’s good to know: 0g trans fat/serv lactose-free gluten-free.”
The complaint makes allegations that Nestle has a pattern of negative or anti-consumer behavior:
According to the complaint, the company has violated California laws against unfair competition and false advertising, in addition to breaching its warranties.