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Calif. consumer has beef with MorningStar Farms‘veggie’ labels

3 minute read

REUTERS/Phil Noble

  • Products are mostly water, grains, and oil or sugar, suit says
  • Seeks class action status, damages of at least $5 mln

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(Reuters) - A California consumer is accusing Kellogg Sales Company of perpetrating a fraud on the market with its popular MorningStar Veggie Burgers, Veggie Meatballs, and more than 20 other “Veggie”-labeled products – not because they contain no meat, but because they contain too few vegetables.

According to the potential class action filed in federal court in Oakland by Angela Kennard’s attorneys at Fitzgerald Joseph and Jackson & Foster, “Kellogg prominently represents that the Veggie Products are ‘VEGGIE,’ but this representation is false or at least highly misleading because the predominant non-water ingredient in all of the Veggie Products is not vegetables — or even vegetable-based — but instead, grain or oil.”

For example, the MorningStar Veggie Dog lists “water, wheat gluten, and corn syrup solids” as its first three ingredients, followed by “2% or less of various other ingredients, only some of which are vegetable-based,” Kennard alleges. Wheat is a grain, and corn syrup is a sugar, the complaint says.

Kennard is seeking class-action status on behalf of California purchasers, injunctive relief and monetary relief. The complaint does not mention a specific amount, but says it is above the $5 million jurisdictional floor for the Class Action Fairness Act.

Her attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Kellogg’s has not yet made an appearance in the case. The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment sent to its headquarters and investors relations representatives.

In a call with analysts last month to discuss second-quarter 2021 performance, Kellogg’s CEO Steven Cahillane described MorningStar Farms as a “growth driver” and a “$400 million retail sales brand.”

The Food and Drug Administration has not defined what products may be described as “vegan” or “vegetarian,” let alone “veggie.” However, the USDA generally draws a distinction between grains (the seeds of grasses) and vegetables.

“Reasonable consumers understand and expect that products marketed as ‘veggie’ are made from vegetables, rather than beans or other legumes, grains, tofu, oil, or anything else,” Kennard says.

Her complaint includes causes of action for breach of express and implied warranties, and claims under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and its California counterpart, known as the Sherman Law; the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act; the state False Advertising Law; and the California Unfair Competition Act.

MorningStar’s “Veggie products cost more than similar products without misleading labeling, and would have cost less absent the false and misleading statements complained of herein,” Kennard alleges. “Absent the false and misleading labeling complained of herein, Plaintiff and other Class members would only have been willing to pay less for the Veggie Products or would not have purchased them at all.”

The complaint includes a demand for a jury trial. The case has been assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Kandis Westmore.

The case is Angela Kennard, on behalf of herself, all others similarly situated, and the general public v. Kellogg Sales Company, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Case No. 21-7211.

For Kennard: Paul Joseph and Jack Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Joseph; Sidney Jackson III and Christian Harben of Jackson & Foster

For Kellogg Sales Co: Not immediately available

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