Who didn’t grow up eating Fruit Roll-Ups by the fistful? With fascinating cut-out shapes that must be peeled from their wax paper homes with painstaking precision – they’re a solid ten minutes of delicious fun for kids, and a breath of fresh air for harried moms who need just five minutes’ peace. But are they nutritious? That’s entirely different, and also entirely relative. They’re certainly healthier than a bag full of Pixy Stix, but they’re not exactly granola either. That hasn’t stopped General Mills from labeling Fruit Roll-Ups boxes with feel-good slogans like “naturally flavored,” low fat,” and “a good source of Vitamin C” – so health advocacy group The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has helpfully offered to stop that labeling for them in the form of a class action lawsuit against the company on the grounds of false advertising.
"General Mills is giving consumers the false impression that these products are somehow more wholesome, and charging more. It's an elaborate hoax on parents who are trying to do right by their kids," says Steve Gardner, an attorney with Dallas-based law firm Seema Rattan and litigation director for CSPI. According to a report in AdWeek, CSPI is also pushing for new voluntary federal guidelines for marketing food to children. “General Mills is basically dressing up a very cheap candy as if it were a fruit and charging a premium for it."
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According to the lawsuit, Fruit Roll-Ups were found to actually contain trans-fat and artificial food dyes and sugar, while lacking fiber and any substantial amount of actual fruit. While none of that is against the law per se, it violates several California laws when juxtaposed with packaging that touts the snack as a healthy option. The case echoes a 2009 incident where the FDA demanded that General Mills change its Cheerios packaging, which once made bold “clinically-proven” claims about its role in reducing cholesterol.
In this year’s case, General Mills claims that it has yet to actually be subpoenaed. It would not be unusual for CSPI to put out a press release before actually serving a lawsuit," a spokesperson for the company told AdWeek in a statement over e-mail. "We stand behind our products, and we stand behind the accuracy of the labeling of those products."