General Mills Flavor Labeling Settlement Denied
On Friday, June 4, U.S. District Judge James Lorenz denied preliminary approval of a General Mills class action settlement due to signs of collusion. The California federal judge said the deal raises questions about whether class counsel really had the consumers’ interests in mind, as the deal offers no money to the class, but a large payout to the attorneys.
In December 2017, consumers filed a class action lawsuit against General Mills, claiming that its fruit-flavored snacks (Fruit Roll-Ups) were intentionally mislabeled as all natural. The suit alleged that the products were advertised as “naturally flavored” and containing “no artificial flavors” but contained malic acid.
General Mills and the class of consumers recently reached a settlement agreement which would require minimal label changes to the product’s packaging. Under the proposal, General Mills would display an asterisk next to the “no artificial flavors” claim, with the asterisk directing consumers to the company’s website where it would be mentioned that the product may “contain synthetic malic acid or other acidulants” and that “malic acid is intended for use not as a flavor or to impart the characterizing flavor of these products, but is a substance the FDA approves for multiple uses including a flavor enhancer, a flavoring agent or adjuvant, or as a pH control agent.” The settlement would provide no money to class members and instead provide a $725,000 payout to the attorneys for fees and costs. Such an agreement strays far from the class’s original request for monetary relief. The court ultimately found that the settlement falls short of a fair and adequate settlement to resolve the class claims and denied the proposed deal.