A California federal judge permanently threw out a proposed class action against Kellogg, deciding that its use of the term “veggie” in its line of Morningstar Farms meatless products was not misleading to reasonable consumers.
The consumer behind the class action accused Kellogg of tricking consumers into believing that vegetables were the main or only ingredients contained in the meatless meals. She claimed that the products were sold at a premium cost, which she and other class members would not have paid had they known the products' true vegetable content.
The line of meatless products, which includes meatless burgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, sausage links and more, are vegetarian substitutes made from grains, oils, legumes, and other ingredients. Kellogg argued that the term “veggie” used on the label simply refers to the products being meatless substitutes and alternatives, and that there was nothing else on the label that would represent that the food is made mainly from, or contains a particular quantity, of vegetables. Further, the packaging featured items that imitate meat as well as a readily identifiable ingredients list.
The Ninth Circuit applied the reasonable consumer standard in its analysis which requires a showing that members of the public are likely to be deceived -- that there must be more than a mere possibility that the product's label might be misunderstood by some few consumers viewing it in an unreasonable manner. The court discussed the implausibility of the plaintiff's allegations, stating they do not support a reasonable inference that a significant portion of consumers would be misled into thinking the “veggie”-labeled products are made primarily of vegetables as opposed to being meat substitutes made from other ingredients.
The decision comes after Kellogg moved to dismiss the suit in April, which had been amended from the initial complaint that was tossed in January.
Kennard v. Kellogg Sales Co.
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