Friday, December 23, 2022

Goldfish crackers are not plausibly understood as weight control foods even w/zero sugar

Cleveland v. Campbell Soup Co., --- F.Supp.3d ----, 2022 WL 17835514, No. 21-cv-06002-JD (N.D. Cal. Dec. 21, 2022)

Plaintiffs alleged that they were duped into buying Goldfish crackers as a “healthy” and reduced-calorie snack choice because certain Goldfish packages indicated on the front label that the crackers contained “0g Sugars.” They brought claims under the consumer protection laws of California and New York law, and claims for restitution and breach of warranty.

This was not plausible. The calorie count per serving of the crackers was plainly visible to consumers on the front of the package, and so no reasonable consumer could plausibly believe that Goldfish were a health or reduced-calorie food. The court noted that the statement “0g Sugars”

does not, on its face, say anything about calories. The world is full of foods that are low-sugar and not low-calorie. Nuts, butter, olive oil, avocados, and many cheeses come immediately to mind as foods widely understood to be low in sugar but relatively high in calories. Consequently, it is not plausible to contend that a reasonable consumer would necessarily equate 0g sugars with reduced calories. That is particularly true here, where the product labels emphasize “cheddar” and “pizza” flavors, two foods that experience and common sense indicate are not good for calorie reduction purposes, “blasted” or not.

The labels underscored the implausibility: 

“A consumer does not need to read any fine print, turn the package around for details, or do anything other than look at the front label to obtain the calorie count for a cracker serving.” The label made it inherently implausible “that a significant portion of the general consuming public or of targeted consumers, acting reasonably in the circumstances,” would understand “0g Total Sugars” to mean “low or reduced in calories.”

Plaintiffs’ use of studies and surveys didn’t help; they were mostly generic. “[A]lthough it may be true that a ‘2021 Sugar Claims Study found “that products containing claims related to sugar content were rated as more healthful and less caloric than their regular alternatives,”’ such a highly generalized observation is of little value for a label that says ‘0g Sugars’ right next to a larger-sized calorie disclosure.” Likewise for a general statement by the FDA to the effect that “[c]onsumers may reasonably be expected to regard terms that represent that the food contains no sugars or sweeteners, e.g., ‘sugar free,’ or ‘no sugar,’ as indicating a product which is low in calories or significantly reduced in calories.” The specific context controlled, and here that included a panel also disclosing calories per serving and other nutrition information.

Plaintiffs were given one last chance to amend on the possible theory that 0 sugars is literally false because Goldfish crackers “actually contain sugar.”

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