Tag Archives: food companies

Lawsuits being brought against food manufacturers for product misrepresentation

FoodFacts.com has long held the opinion that many of the products on our grocery store shelves are labeled in a misleading fashion, and don’t actually give consumers a clear representation of the products held in their boxes, cans and bags. Our community has always agreed with us. And it does appear that a controversy may be brewing over this practice.

Information has come to light that the same lawyers who brought millions of dollars in lawsuits against big tobacco companies (and won tremendous settlements form the likes of R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris) have been busy filing 25 new cases against food manufacturers, including ConAgra Foods, Heinz, General Mills and PepsiCo. These suits have been filed over the last four months and are claiming that these food manufacturers are mislabeling products and ingredients. Currently there are also lawsuits regarding Pam cooking spray, Swiss Miss cocoa products and some Hunt’s canned tomatoes.

While the food manufacturers are claiming that these are frivolous lawsuits and are strictly financially motivated, the lawyers are claiming that these cases could result in a cost of billions of dollars to the food companies.

For example, two mothers have brought a lawsuit against the makers of Nutella, claiming they were deceived into believing that the chocolate hazelnut spread was healthy for their kids. A similar suit was brought against PepsiCo three years ago accusing them of false advertising for Cap ‘n Crunch Crunch Berries cereal because it does not contain actual berries. The court felt that a “reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the product contained a berry that does not exist.” But is that really an analogous case? Of course, there are no such things as “crunch berries,” but Nutella certainly advertises itself as a healthy product that moms can feel good about serving their families. As a note, the product does not rate well on the FoodFacts.com website for a number of reasons.

In addition to the lawyers who filed suit against Big Tobacco, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has also filed suits against General Mills and McNeil Nutritionals over claims they make on Nature Valley and Splenda Essentials products. Both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are faced with many suits regarding the 100% natural claims on many of their products, as well.

The focus seems to be – as we would have suspected – on products that make claims of “natural” or “Healthy.” These claims, often, seem to be subjective. And since these products aren’t subjected to the same federal standards as organics, the claims really do reflect the purposes of the food manufacturer and not the nutrition labels or the ingredient lists.

With obesity at epidemic levels in this country, and food additives being linked every day to increasing health problems, FoodFacts.com wonders whether or not this will go the way of the old tobacco lawsuits. Initially, the courts declared smoking a personal choice that consumers make, hopefully understanding the health risks they are inflicting on themselves. It wasn’t until the tobacco companies were sued on behalf of states on the basis of the hundreds of millions of dollars caring for sick smokers that the settlements were won by the lawyers.

It does appear that this is a new trend that is just beginning to emerge. It’s a trend that may cost offending food manufacturers a tremendous amount of money and cause them to actually pull products from the shelves, until they rebrand, rename or redevelop many of their products so that they accurately depict nutritional value and ingredients used.
FoodFacts.com thinks that this is a trend worth watching and we’ll be keeping you informed as we discover more about what companies are being sued and why. In the meantime, here are two links for you to read and discover more about what’s happening: http://www.bendbulletin.com/article/20120819/NEWS0107/208190394/ and http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/business/lawyers-of-big-tobacco-lawsuits-take-aim-at-food-industry.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&smid=tw-share

Cartoons + Food Packaging = Pestering Kids

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Brought to you by Foodfacts.com:

Are we creating a generation of naggers? New research out of the United States shows a direct correlation between cartoons on food boxes and the amount of pestering parents will receive from their children.

The placement of recognizable cartoons and figures on food boxes, like cereal packets, has been a successful tactic for decades.
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According to new research in the Journal of Children and Media, the packaging, characters and commercials all make a difference to the amount of nagging the children will do.

Those children who watched more television advertisements were found to be more likely to nag for products with relate-able characters on them, even if they did not like the food, the US ABC reports.

Not only did they nag more, but the kids who watched more TV had more varied forms of nagging – juvenile nagging, nagging to test boundaries and manipulative nagging.

Juvenile nagging consists is the repeated asking for items, whining and even flailing arms and stomping feet.

Children who nagged to test boundaries engaged in public tantrums and putting items in the cart even as their mother refused.

Manipulative nagging consists of sweet talking the mother, or arguing that they needed it because other children had it.

“Our study indicates that manipulative nagging and overall nagging increased with age,”

Holly Henry, a co-author of the study and a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins said in a statement.

Researchers said mothers of 5-year-olds recalled more negative nagging experiences, researchers said.

The research is a timely addition to the debate about advertising junk food to children in Australia, particularly when they are still seeing advertisements for junk food left, right and centre, two years on from the voluntary marketing code against the practice.
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The Australian Food and Grocery Council suggested to junk food advertisers in August 2009 that they should stop advertising unhealthy food choices during children’s programs and were also advised that maybe they shouldn’t aim the advertisements at the children.

But new reports have shown ads selling unhealthy food options on television are just as prevalent as they were before the code was introduced.

The number of fast food ads is even higher than it was before the code, and the amount of junk food ads seen on our screens hasn’t wavered.

Is anyone really surprised by this?

Did anyone really expect companies to voluntarily reduce their profits by not advertising their products to some of the most impressionable members of society?

The suggestions, not least from the Australian Medical Association, that the government should step in to ban junk food advertising targeted at children has been met with varying responses.

Some say the government involvement is a necessary measure to protect our children, while others argue the move would further increase the Nanny state Australia exists in.

The US study analysed surveys and interviews from 64 mothers with children between 3 and 5, who were asked questions about family eating and shopping habits, media use and how they dealt with nagging children.

“She picks up the characters by osmosis,” one mother who took part in the study said of her 4-year-old daughter.

“It really became clear to me how much TV impacts his preferences when he asked me to go to Burger King and I said, ‘Why Burger King?’ and he replied he had seen it on TV,” another mother with a four year old said.

Co-author of the study Dina Boraekowski, associate professor at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said there is no doubt the advertising tactics work, but companies should be focused on using it more positively.

We know marketing works, so the trick is to make it work for healthier products,” she said.
The most successful cartoons used included Dora the Explorer, Elmo, Spongebob and Scooby Doo.
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“It’s been a battle with my child,” said one mother. “No reward in whining.”

“Giving in was consistently cited as one of the least-effective strategies,” said Henry.

Almost 40 per cent of mothers said they tried to combat the nagging by limiting their child’s exposure to commercials, which researchers found was the most effective way to limit the nagging and consumption of unhealthy foods and drinks.

They also suggested explaining the marketing ploy to children, by telling them they would be tempted by products when they go shopping, but they may not be healthy.

“I don’t’ think marketing is going away anytime soon, said Borzekowski. “We need to help parents deal with the current situation.”

On Monday, the Victorian government announced a Ministry of Food campaign, similar to the one implemented by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, to educate families about food and health.

The initiatives come after new figures revealed on in four Victorian primary school students are overweight or obese.

A $40 million program is being rolled out in key communities to offer families practical advice and classes on healthy eating, grocery shopping and lifestyle choices.

(Retrieved from: Jessica Burke, Food Magazine)