A class action suit has been filed in Florida against Hormel Foods Corp. for allegedly deceiving consumers with fat-free claims on packaging.
The lawsuit, which was filed on April 18 in U.S. District Court, alleges that both Hormel and Kraft Foods Inc., misrepresent the fat content in their deli meat products by placing misleading "fat-free" labels on product packaging. Florida resident Brad Kuenzig filed the suit on behalf of himself and other consumers in his situation.
According to the court complaint, the lawsuit focuses on pre-packaged deli meats that contain labels claiming the product is anywhere from 95 to 98 percent fat-free, when the products actually contain more than 10 times the stated amount of fat.
"Hormel has succeeded in misleading consumers," the court complaint reads. "Without exception, people who have earned medical degrees, PhDs, JDs, masters degrees and people with decades of real-world experience have all interpreted Hormel's claims to refer to calories from fat."
The court complaint lists several examples of misrepresentation by Hormel, including the company's claim that its fat-free cooked deli ham is 96 percent fat free. According to the court complaint, the ham contains 60 calories per serving, with 20 of those from fat. Therefore, the ham actually contains 33 percent fat, the complaint states.
The complaint goes on to say Hormel "breached its duty of good faith and fair dealing toward Plaintiff by knowingly applying deceptive and misleading statements to its products labels, and by failing to include any sort of explanatory phrase."
According to Aaron Mayer, who is representing the Plaintiff, neither Hormel nor Kraft have formally responded to the complaint yet. Kraft was granted an extension to June 13, and Mayer said Hormel will likely be granted the same extension.
Julie Craven, vice president of corporate communication at Hormel Foods, said, "The statements on our labels are regulated and approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture prior to use and are understandable."
Craven would not comment further.
Copyright (c) 2011, Austin Daily Herald, Minn.
Written by Amanda Lillie, Austin Daily Herald, Minn. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.