California consumer has beef with MorningStar Farms vegetarian labels

Kellogg’s factory near Manchester, UK. REUTERS / Phil Noble

  • The products are mainly water, grain and oil or sugar, according to Suit
  • Asks for class action status, damages of at least $ 5 million

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(Reuters) – California consumer accuses Kellogg Sales Company of market fraud with its popular MorningStar Veggie Burgers, Veggie Meatballs and more than 20 other products labeled “Veggie” – not because they don’t contain meat, but because they contain too few vegetables.

According to the potential class action filed in federal court in Oakland by lawyers for Angela Kennard at Fitzgerald Joseph and Jackson & Foster, “Kellogg makes it clear that vegetarian products are ‘vegetarian’, but this representation is false or at least very misleading because the predominant non-aqueous ingredient in all Vegetarian products are not vegetables – or even vegetable-based – but rather grains or oil. “

For example, the MorningStar Veggie Dog lists “water, wheat gluten, and corn syrup solids” as its first three ingredients, followed by “2% or less of various other ingredients, of which only some are made from. vegetables, “Kennard alleges. Wheat is a grain and corn syrup is a sugar, the complaint says.

Kennard is seeking class action status on behalf of California buyers, injunction and monetary relief. The complaint does not mention a specific amount, but indicates that it is above the jurisdictional floor of $ 5 million for the Class Action Fairness Act.

His lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Kellogg’s has yet to make an appearance in the case. The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment sent to its head office and investor relations representatives.

On a call with analysts last month to discuss second quarter 2021 performance, Kellogg CEO Steven Cahillane described MorningStar Farms as a “growth engine” and a “400 million retail brand. of dollars”.

The Food and Drug Administration has not defined which products can be described as “vegan” or “vegetarian”, let alone “vegetarian.” However, the USDA generally makes a distinction between grains (the seeds of grasses) and vegetables.

“Reasonable consumers understand and expect products marketed as ‘vegetarians’ to be made from vegetables, rather than beans or other legumes, grains, tofu, oil or whatever,” Kennard explains.

His complaint includes causes of action for violation of express and implied warranties, and claims under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and its California counterpart, known as the Sherman Act; California Consumer Legal Remedies Act; the law on false advertising of the state; and California Unfair Competition Law.

MorningStar’s “vegetarian products cost more than similar products without misleading labeling, and would have cost less without the false and misleading claims discussed here,” Kennard alleges. “In the absence of the false and misleading labeling with which it is alleged herein, the plaintiff and the other members of the group would only have been willing to pay less for the vegetarian products or would not have purchased them at all. “

The complaint includes a request for a jury trial. The case was assigned to US magistrate Kandis Westmore.

The case is Angela Kennard, on behalf of herself, all others in the same position, and the general public against Kellogg Sales Company, US District Court for the Northern District of California Case No. 21-7211.

For Kennard: Paul Joseph and Jack Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Joseph; Sidney Jackson III and Christian Harben of Jackson & Foster

For Kellogg Sales Co: Not available immediately

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