A Sticky Problem

Posted by
November 2, 2011

By James J. Gormley

Quick, take a guess: What’s the main thing missing from Fruit Roll-Ups, Fruit by the Foot and Fruit Gushers? Answer: fruit!

In an October 14 complaint from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed in a U.S. District Court in California, General Mills has been slapped with a proposed class action lawsuit for “misleading consumers about the nutritional and health qualities of its fruit snacks,” namely Fruit Roll-Ups, Fruit by the Foot and similar products.

Although the labels say these snacks are “fruit flavored,” “naturally flavored,” “a good source of vitamin C,” and low in calories, fat and gluten, according to the CSPI’s lawsuit, obscured on labels is the fact that the “so-called fruit snacks are mostly sugars (some from fruit concentrate and some from corn syrup), artificial additives and potentially harmful dyes.”

Some of the typical ingredients in these products are: partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil (trans fat anyone?); Red 40; Yellow 5; Yellow 6; Blue 1; and processed sweeteners. Not exactly whoesome nutrition.

In fact, Red 40 and Yellow 5 are made from petroleum and pose a whole range of unlabelled health risks, according to CSPI, including hyperactictivity and allergic reactions, in addition to being potentially carcinogenic. The British government and the European Union have already established regulations virtually eliminating the use of dyes such as these, not so the U.S. government.

“General Mills is basically dressing up a very cheap candy as if it were fruit and charging a premium for it,” said CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner.

The complaint also says that the labeling of these products violates different state laws, including Minnesota’s Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act and several California laws covering “misleading and deceptive advertising and fraudulent business practices.

Any surprise that this is the same company that markets two of the unarguably least healthy kids’ cereals, Reese’s Puffs and Lucky Charms?

For General Mills’ part, it was quoted in Marketing Daily with this response to word of a suit, in part: “We stand behind our products — and we stand behind the accuracy of the labeling of those products.” Fortunately, CSPI and Citizens for Health are standing behind truth, accuracy and the health of our nation’s children.

And this is certainly not the first fake fruit story on which we have reported, to be sure; click here to read Linda Bonvie’s September 22nd post, entitled “If you are goingto make fake food, call it what it is”!