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SweeTarts Candy “No Artificial Flavors” Claim California Class Action

Package of SweeTarts Candies

SweeTarts, the sweet and tart candies made by Nestle USA, Inc., have been with us for more than fifty years, but they are keeping up with consumer preferences by advertising that they contain no artificial flavors. Unfortunately, the complaint for this class action claims that they do contain at least one artificial flavor, a petrochemical substance called malic acid.

The class for this action is all citizens of California who bought the products at issue in California between January 1, 2012 until the date notices are sent out in this action.

The products at issue include the following:

  • SweeTARTS Original
  • SweeTARTS Mini Chewy
  • SweeTARTS Giant Chewy
  • SweeTARTS Chews
  • SweeTARTS Extreme Sour Chewy
  • SweeTARTS Chewy Sours
  • SweeTARTS Sour Gummies
  • SweeTARTS Gummies
  • SweeTARTS Whipped & Tangy
  • SweeTARTS Cherry Punch Soft & Chewy Ropes
  • SweeTARTS Tangy Strawberry Soft & Chewy Ropes
  • SweeTARTS Jelly Beans

The complaint shows a photo of a bag of SweeTarts Mini Chewy candies, with images of the candies, pictures of fruit, and the words “No Artificial Flavors.” This, the complaint says, violates California laws in several ways.

According to the complaint, if the candies contain artificial flavoring ingredients that simulate and reinforce the characterizing flavor, the law requires that the front label disclose those additional flavors.

Malic acid provides a tart, fruity flavor to the candy. However, the complaint quotes the Food and Drug Administration as saying that the names of ingredients “shall be listed by a specific name and not a collective (generic) name.” Since there are two types of malic acid, the complaint says, the ingredient list should specify which is used. According to the complaint, Nestle uses d-l malic acid, which is not natural but made from benzene or butane through chemical reactions.

Federal law also has rules about situations where a food’s characterizing flavor is not created only by the characterizing flavor ingredient (for example, if cherry flavor is not created exclusively by cherries). If an artificial flavor “simulates, resembles or reinforces” the characterizing flavor, the food must be prominently labeled as “Artificially Flavored.”

The complaint quotes Nestle research as saying that candy consumers now want “fewer artificial ingredients” so that “our first step has been to remove artificial flavors and colors without affecting taste…” But the complaint claims that the company simply does not disclose that the malic acid they use is not natural.

Among other things, the complaint cites fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and violations of California’s Consumer Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Law, and False Advertising Law.

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