A federal judge in Minnesota recently dismissed a putative class action accusing General Mills of falsely advertising its Nature Valley granola bars as “100% Natural.” Chin et al. v. General Mills, Inc., Case No. 12-cv-2150-MJD-TML (D. Minn. June 3, 2013). The judge granted General Mills’ motion to dismiss because the allegedly artificial ingredients were clearly listed on the product packages—thus, consumers were adequately informed.
Judge Michael J. Davis was not persuaded by plaintiffs’ argument that General Mills breached express warranties by using the term “100% Natural” because the granola bars contain high fructose corn syrup, high maltose corn syrup, and/or maltodextrin. (See our prior post here regarding the parties’ arguments on the motion to dismiss.) He found, rather, that the specific terms in the ingredient list inform the more general term “100% Natural”:
“The Court agrees with General Mills and finds that the specific terms determine the scope of the express warranty that was allegedly made to Plaintiffs. As such, General Mills cannot be in breach of an express warranty by including an ingredient that it expressly informed consumer was included.”
This holding is welcome news for those defending against “all natural” suits because other courts have rejected similar arguments. (See discussion in our prior blog post here.)
Judge Davis sided with General Mills on the issue of standing, too. He dismissed plaintiffs’ claims as to certain types of granola bars because the named plaintiffs never alleged buying those bars:
“The named plaintiffs in a class action may not rely on injuries that the putative class may have suffered, but instead must allege that they personally have been injured.”
Plaintiffs’ false advertising claims were also on the chopping block for failure to satisfy Rule 9(b)’s heightened pleading requirements. Plaintiffs failed to plead how they were deceived by the “100% Natural” statement or specify what they believed “100% Natural” to mean.