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"We Never Said They're Healthy": General Mills Files to Dismiss Fruit Snacks Lawsuit
Nadia Arumugam, Contributor
March 29, 2012

Last October a class action lawsuit was filed against General Mills claiming that the manufacturer?s fruit snacks misled consumers into thinking they were healthy, nutritious fare. The suit was filed on behalf of Californian consumer, Annie Lam, by attorneys from the nutrition advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest. Lam lambasted General Mill?s repertoire of Fruit Roll-ups, Fruit Gushers and Fruit by the Foot as being packed with ?trans fat, large amount of added sugar, {and} large amounts of potentially harmful artificial food dyes? and condemned their ?lack {of} significant amounts of real, natural fruit.? She went on to add that buying these snacks were ? little better than giving candy to children.?

General Mills countered these allegations in a recent motion to dismiss the case by saying that ? the labels of Fruit Flavored Snacks do not contain affirmative representations that the products are ?healthful? or ?nutritious.? In fact, according to General Mills, the labeling clearly discloses that its products are riddled with everything that?s bad for your kids, you just have to look for it. And if you get blindsided by the assertions ?Good source of Vitamin C? and ?Low Fat,? that?s just your fault. Anyway, both of these statements are true, even if the Vitamin C is double coated in sugar and artificial dyes.

If anything, a case like this highlights the importance of taking a minute to scour labels, or actually just taking a good look at what?s on the front of the packaging before acquiescing to your child?s demands; a burden that many parents just don?t have the time or, let?s be honest, inclination to take on. When it comes to snacks like the 3-feet long Fruit By The Loop treat which comes in flavors like Berry Tie-Dye, Razzle Blue Blitz and Tropical Tango, and feature a neon-colored coil of something that almost completely resembles an extra-long, thinned out gummy candy, it doesn?t take a genius to work out that there?s a vast disparity between the neon-colored coil, and an actual piece of fruit.

This case reminds me of the Nutella lawsuit last year, when Californian mother Athena Hohenberg said that Ferrero?s labeling and television marketing had convinced her that the chocolate, I repeat, chocolate, spread was a healthy solution to her child?s breakfast. I mean, seriously, it?s chocolate. I wrote an article in Slate arguing that the in total when the spread is applied to wholewheat toast it wasn?t all that bad when compared to some of the hideously sugar-filled, fiber-deficient cereals out there. But, in isolation, how can it not be clear to any responsible adult that a chocolate spread is not healthy breakfast food.

Then of course, there?s was the extremely embarrassing case of the overweight, 270 pound, Bronx guy who came to the conclusion that it wasn?t his misguided decisions to stuff himself with OBVIOUSLY unhealthy fast foods that led to his sizable waistline but rather the fault of McDonald?s, Burger King, Wendy?s and KFC who jeopardized his health with their greasy, salty fare without explicitly indicating the ills their menus were capable of delivering. Caesar Barber claimed the eateries didn?t disclose the ingredients of their food and the risks of eating too much. Sure, Barber?s case was laughable, and it?s surprising he was taken seriously at all, but perhaps what was most objectionable was the implication the lawsuit makes about the abilities of Americans to make reasonable decisions about what they should and shouldn?t be eating. In effect, it?s saying that we?re too stupid to be able to recognize unhealthy food when faced with it and that we aren?t equipped with the basic intellectual tools to soundly evaluate what we put in our mouths.

In case you?re wondering what my point is, well, really it?s this. Isn?t it about time that we take responsibility for our own health and the health of our family, and learn to say ?nay? when our children opt for a florescent pink strawberry gummy thing instead of say, real strawberries. Sure, General Mills, Ferrero and countless other food companies will try to dupe us with a cornucopia of seemingly nutritious offerings that in reality offer no more nutrition than saw dust, or worse still, a sugar coated saw dust. But rather than wagging our fingers at them pointlessly (as General Mill asserted, everything on its labels complied with the law), we, as consumers, should be more attentive to what we throw into our shopping carts. And, if it means enduring one of those middle-of-the-grocery-aisle, screaming tantrums, well, so be it.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Actually, he is starting to sound like the guy who sold me one of those disastrous Renault 10 cars when I was a student. :panic:
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