By Nicole Lyn Pesce
That’s one berry expensive lawsuit.
An Illinois woman is suing Kellogg (NYS:K) for $5 million in damages, claiming the company is misleading consumers by selling “Frosted Strawberry Pop-Tarts” that barely contain any strawberries.
The class-action lawsuit filed in late August by Anita Harris in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Illinois East St. Louis Division against Kellogg Sales Company alleges that the so-called strawberry toaster pastries contain more pears and apples than actual strawberries.
The suit, which was obtained by MarketWatch, includes pictures of the packaging as well as marketing for the rectangular treats, which frequently include a half-eaten strawberry and a peek at the red fruity filling inside the Pop-Tarts.
“The representations are misleading because they give consumers the impression the fruit filling contains a greater relative and absolute amount of strawberries than it does,” suit states.
If you read the nutrition label on a box of the “Frosted Strawberry Toaster Pastries,” the fine print says that the product contains 2% or less of ingredients such as dried strawberries, dried pears and dried apples, as well as other mouthwatering morsels like red 40 coloring, yellow corn flour and caramel color.
The description of the product on the Pop-Tarts website also describes the grab-and-go breakfast treat as being “filled with strawberry-flavored goodness.” And this is where the suit comes in.
“The Product’s common or usual name of ‘Frosted Strawberry — Toaster Pastries,’ is false, misleading, and deceptive because its filling contains a relatively significant amount of non-strawberry fruit ingredients — pears and apples — shown on the ingredient list,” the suit reads. The front label and the marketing also doesn’t highlight the artificial flavors and added colors, the complaint continues.
What’s more, it claims that Harris and other consumers would not have repeatedly purchased the product (paying $5.49 or higher for a 12-pack) if she knew the fruit filling contained so few strawberries. And she’s asking for $5 million in damages, and for the company to update its labeling to highlight the other fruits and the food coloring that are jammed together to make the pastry filling.
“Reasonable consumers must and do rely on a company to honestly identify and describe the components, attributes, and features of the Product,” Harris adds in the suit.
Kellogg responded that it does not comment on pending legislation.
This complaint harks back to Starbucks (NAS:SBUX) facing backlash several years ago as more consumers started realizing their beloved pumpkin spice lattes didn’t actually contain any pumpkin. The company has since tweaked the recipe to squeeze in autumn’s signature gourd — here’s MarketWatch writer Charles Passy’s take on what he think a “real” pumpkin PSL tastes like , as well as his thoughts on this year’s slew of seasonal flavors at the coffee chain .
The Kellogg class-action suit also comes as comedian Jerry Seinfeld is co-writing, directing, producing and starring in a film about the origins of Pop-Tarts for Netflix (NAS:NFLX) . “Unfrosted” is a comedy film based on an a popular joke that he’s told on-stage about the toaster pastries, Deadline reported . Watch an excerpt of that famous riff here:
Seinfeld’s bit also touched upon the nutritional value of Pop-Tarts with this memorable kicker: “They can’t go stale, because they were never fresh.”