Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Supplement Manufacturer May Be Liable for Nutrition Claims Under California Consumer Protection Law

This posting was written by Jody Coultas, Editor of CCH State Unfair Trade Practices Law.

A supplement purchaser stated California consumer protection law claims against a supplement manufacturer for allegedly making false and misleading advertising statements, the federal district court in Oakland, California, has held.

The majority of the purchaser’s first amended complaint that the manufacturer falsely advertised its Muscle Milk Ready–To-Drink and Muscle Milk Bars was dismissed (CCH State Unfair Trade Practices Law ¶32,442).

The court found that the manufacturer’s use of the term “healthy” in its advertising was difficult to define and there was no evidence that the products actually contained unhealthy amounts of fat.

Healthy Energy, Good Carbohydrates

In the amended complaint, the purchaser presented statements made on the manufacturer’s products and website and television advertisements, specifically that the products contained healthy energy and good carbohydrates.

The second amended complaint contained allegations that relied on the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. The borrowing from the regulations did not impose any unfair burden on the manufacturer and were allowed.

Statements made by the manufacturer that its products contained “Healthy, Sustained Energy” and “25g PROTEIN for Healthy, Sustained Energy” were actionable, according to the court. Although a healthy product is hard to define, the purchaser provided objective standards, such as the FDA requirements, that could be used as evidence that certain contents in the product were not healthful.

However, the statements “good carbohydrates” and “0g Trans Fat” were not actionable. There was no evidence that added sweeteners and sugar were not good carbohydrates or that the amount of trans fats was not in fact 0 grams.

The purchaser also met the reliance requirements of the consumer protection statutes by alleging that she saw and relied on the alleged misrepresentations on the manufacturer’s website and in its television ads.

The decision is Delacruz v. Cytosport, Inc., CCH State Unfair Trade Practices Law ¶32,500.

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