Taking Kraft to Court

In February 2010, two California consumers filed a class action lawsuit against Kraft Foods Inc., alleging that Kraft packaging gave the false impression that their snacks are healthy. The complaint in the case, Red et al v. Kraft, concerns six products in particular: Ritz Crackers, Teddy Grahams, Honey Maid Grahams, Saltines, Ginger Snaps, and Vegetable Thins. All six contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and all six make deceptive health claims.

Citing violations of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Law, and False Advertising Law, these California plaintiffs seek to recover money spent by consumers on Kraft’s deceptive products.

Two years later, this case is still ongoing, and Kraft still makes its products with trans fats.

Evolution of a Class Action Lawsuit
After plaintiffs first submitted their complaint in February 2010, Kraft filed a series of motions to dismiss. They argued that their packaging claims are allowed by federal regulation, and besides that, their packaging is technically true.

For example, the packaging for Ritz Crackers Roasted Vegetables says that it is made with “real vegetables.” Never mind that Ritz Crackers Roasted Vegetables contain more partially hydrogenated vegetable oil – the leading source of trans fat in the American diet – than they contain actual vegetables. Kraft thinks they can imply their crackers are healthy because trace vegetable powder is buried deep in the list of ingredients.

Where their packaging claims are obviously false, Kraft tried to argue that such statements were never meant to be taken seriously. Quoting a 2008 ruling, they argued, “Generalized, vague, and unspecified assertions constitute ‘mere puffery’ upon which a reasonable consumer could not rely, and hence are not actionable. … ‘A fun wholesome choice for your whole family’ is non-actionable puffery because it is not a verifiable assertion of fact capable of being proved or disproved.”

Given the deadly health effects of trans fats, it is astonishing that Kraft could pretend that their products are “wholesome,” then pretend that the word is meaningless when challenged in court. A product containing trans fat, which causes coronary heart disease, cannot be described as wholesome.

What Next?
On June 6th, 2012, the Court issued a tentative order granting, in part, Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification.