BOSTON – A U.S. District Court judge dismissed a class-action lawsuit filed against cereal maker Post by two women, including one from Framingham.
The lead plaintiffs Anita S. Lima of Medford and Susan Wrublewski of Framingham said the Post Consumer Brands of Minnesota intentionally misleads consumers into thinking its Honey Bunches of Oats brands, introduced in 1989, is mainly sweetened with honey. Post highlights a honey dipper drenched covered in honey on the front of the cereal boxes.
The two women claimed they would not have purchased Honey Bunches of Oats if it was mainly flavored with honey, and not cane, brown sugar, corn syrup, malted barley syrup, and molasses.
While the ingredients on the side of the box clearly listed the ingredients, the women said they did not read that box and instead took from the photo on the front of the cereal box that the lead sweetener was honey.
” The branding and packaging of “Honey Bunches of Oats” cereals is not accurate or justifiable on the basis that honey is the primary or characterizing flavor. Each of the Products contains flavoring ingredients in much greater quantities than honey, and many of these ingredients – such as molasses, brown sugar, nuts, and dried fruit – have flavor characteristics that are far more distinctive than honey,” argued the plantiffs.
The judge ruled that “because honey is a characterizing flavor and the cereal actually includes honey as an ingredient, it was permissible for Post to use the images of honey and bees. If the cereal did not contain honey, then Post would be required to include sufficient cautionary language explaining that it was naturally or artificially flavored.”
The plantiffs also argued that “FDA regulations require that a food product’s name disclose the percentage of honey when honey is a ‘characterizing ingredient’.”
The suit sought monetary damages for the two defendants, plus other individuals deceived by the “misleading” practices of Post.
Post, in a motion to dismiss, argued its marketing and the front of the box never said honey was the main sweetener.
U.S. District Court Judge Allison Burroughs granted Post’s motion to dismiss on August 13, 2019.
But the two plantiffs filed a motion to reconsider, which was also dismissed on Thursday, October 3.
“In or about mid-2017, plaintiff Susan Wrublewski saw several television commercials for “Honey Bunches of Oats” cereal which showed the front of the cereal box (as depicted above) and which otherwise emphasized the presence of honey as an ingredient. As a result, Plaintiff was led to believe that the cereal was healthy because, in part, it was exclusively or primarily sweetened with honey and not sugar.so she instructed her husband to purchase a box, and he did so,” stated the lawsuit.
“At home, Plaintiff (Wrublewski) observed that the front of the box of “Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds” was identical to the box depicted in the commercials, and therefore proceeded to consume the cereal for breakfast. Plaintiff enjoyed the cereal and therefore started purchasing and consuming it regularly,” states the lawsuit.
“However, she subsequently learned that the cereal was in fact almost exclusively sweetened with sugar and other refined sweeteners; hence discontinued its use. Plaintiff was economically harmed by Defendant’s false, deceptive, and misleading branding and packaging representing that the Products were primarily or substantially sweetened with honey,” stated the lawsuit. “The value of the cereal that Plaintiff actually purchased and consumed was materially less than its value as misrepresented by Defendant.”