The 9th Circuit allowed two mothers to pursue their class action accusing Gerber Products Co. of deceptively dressing up sugar-loaded gummy treats as healthy snacks for toddlers.
The mothers claimed Gerber falsely touts its Gerber Fruit Juice Snacks as "nutritious" and "made with real fruit juice," and displays images of oranges, peaches, strawberries and cherries on the packaging. But a quick look at the label reveals the main ingredients are corn syrup and sugar, and the only fruit juice is concentrated white grape juice.
They also took issue with Gerber calling the saccharine product a "snack," saying "candy," "sweet" or "treat" was more appropriate. Gerber later changed the name to Fruit Juice Treats, but denied that the lawsuit had anything to do with the change.
A federal judge dismissed the case last year, ruling that a reasonable consumer could see through the packaging "puffery" by simply reading the ingredients.
But the appellate court found that on-the-go parents should not have to scour ingredient lists for labeling discrepancies.
"We do not ... think that a busy parent walking through the aisles of a grocery store should be expected to verify that the representations on the front of the box are confirmed in the ingredient list," Judge Pregerson wrote.
"We do not think that the FDA requires an ingredient list so that manufacturers can mislead consumers and then rely on the ingredient list to correct those misinterpretations and provide a shield for liability for the deception."