When it comes to trans fat, FoodFacts.com has always been amazed that manufacturers are able to label foods containing less than .5 grams per serving as “trans fat free.” The labeling is false, it’s purposely misleading and it relies on the idea that consumers don’t understand ingredients. What manufacturers forget, though, is that there actually are educated consumers out there who understand that partially hydrogenated oils in an ingredient list indicate the presence of trans fat in a product. And some of them are willing to do something about misleading product claims.
The Quaker Oats Co., a division of Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo, Inc., has agreed to remove trans fats from its Oatmeal to Go and Instant Quaker Oatmeal products as part of a lawsuit settlement dating back more than three years.
Under terms of the settlement filed June 12 and made final on July 29 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Quaker Oats said it will pay up to $760,000 in attorney fees and estimates it will spend about $1.4 million to reformulate the products.
Although Quaker continues to deny allegations that the products contain or contained false or misleading labeling, the company has agreed to remove partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) from Oatmeal to Go and Instant Quaker Oatmeal by the end of 2015. Quaker also has agreed not to re-introduce PHOs into those products for at least 10 years thereafter, and has agreed not to introduce PHOs into Quaker Chewy bars, or the Instant Quaker Oatmeal Products that do not currently contain PHOs, for a period of 10 years. Finally, Quaker has agreed to stop making the statement “contains a dietarily insignificant amount of trans fat” on the labels of any of its products that contain 0.2 grams or more of artificial trans fat per serving by the end of this year.
Approximately 50 different varieties of Quaker’s Instant Oatmeal and Chewy and Oatmeal to Go bars were named in the settlement.
So even though Quaker is still standing by its product statements, they’ve agreed to remove trans fat from the products named in the lawsuit. Nothing wrong with the products, seemingly, just that pesky lawsuit.
We don’t really think that’s it. Instead, we think that it makes more sense for Quaker to settle out of court so that the company can stand by its claims and its products while making some quiet changes than to let this go to court where millions of other consumers may develop a clear understanding of what’s really in their products.
This is a victory for consumers, undoubtedly. At the same time, we’d really rather that the strange rule about claiming 0 grams of trans fat when products really do contain it would disappear.