Annie’s Homegrown faces a class action lawsuit alleging the natural food giant deceptively markets more than a dozen products as containing “no preservatives.” “Defendant’s representations that its Products contain no preservatives are deceptive because ANNIE’S products contain the preservatives citric acid and/or ascorbic acid, and tocopherol,” alleges the Annie’s pasta, fruit snacks class action lawsuit. The Annie’s Homegrown class action lawsuit states that had the plaintiff known the product contained a preservative, in this case citric acid, she would not have purchased or paid as much for the pasta. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this with Scott Hardy from Top Class Actions.

Transcript:

*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Farron Cousins:                  Every month, more and more foods come out on in the market telling us that they have no preservatives, they’re not GMO, they don’t have any trans fats, they don’t have any of the bad stuff that more and more consumers are trying to stay away from. But as we’re finding out pretty much each and every month, a lot of these food stuffs actually do end up containing the very things that they’re marketing that they don’t contain. And that happens to be the case with the, some of Annie’s homegrown food products.

Joining me to talk about this is Scott Hardy from Top Class Actions. So Scott, we’ve talked a lot about products mislabeling what’s in their foods and it looks like we’ve got another one here with this Annie’s homegrown with their pastas and their fruit snacks. Take it away. What’s happening with this one?

Scott Hardy:                          Right, so what the, the Annie’s homegrown brand has become a very well respected brand because it’s been affordable and it’s a great way to purchase what you believe will be healthy snacks for your, your kids and yourself. In fact, my community manager, Nicole, had commented, she said, hey, I like to get this stuff for my kids and my family. And it’s so popular out there. I was really surprised to see it, you know, and that’s one of the reasons that we’re presenting it to you.

I mean, so far Top Class Actions has received 436 comments about the Annie’s class action that it, you know, we know there are a ton of people out there that are being impacted by it. So what this class action alleges is that in both the, the Annie’s a homegrown pasta along with the fruit snacks, it says it’s preservative free. And so you and I talk about this stuff all the time. We go, great it’s preservative free. Let’s go ahead and eat that up.

But then you take a look at the box and you see it’s got citric acid in it and citric acid is a preservative. So it’s not exactly preservative free and they’re getting dinged on it. And so we’ve got these consumers that are buying a very well respected brand like Annie’s expecting the truth to be on the box. And in fact, citric acid as a preservative natural, not exactly. This is a synthetic ingredient that they’re using here. And that’s what this class action is about.

Farron Cousins:                  Exactly and it’s worth pointing out that, you know, citric acid is, is safe in these smaller quantities for human consumption. It’s used in foods all the time, sometimes as a, as a flavoring agent, not just as a preservative. But in this particular case and of course it’s also found in plenty of foods, you know, naturally, especially obviously citrus fruits, but in this particular instance, it’s being added to the product as a preservative.

You know, this is not for the flavoring, this is not because it needs to be in there or because it’s a natural part of what is in there. They’re putting this in there along with possibly also ascorbic acid and tocopherol as the preservatives. So there’s really not a whole lot of wiggle room that they have here. You’re telling us there’s no preservatives. We’re looking at the back of the package, we’re looking at the fine print here and it says, oh, by the way, those no preservatives, we actually do have a few.

And you have consumers, specifically those in the, the, the class here who alleged in the complaint, we bought this because of your claim. That’s why I picked your product. And as we have said 100 times here, you took away their choice. That’s, that’s the problem. It’s not that, okay, you’ve got preservatives. If you want to put them in there, put them in there, let us know that they’re in there and don’t lie to us that they’re not. That’s the issue.

Scott Hardy:                          Exactly, right. Exactly. So, you know, put it in there. Go ahead and, you know, don’t say it’s preservative free and, but you know, you’ve got people that are paying a premium for the Annie’s homegrown snacks and the fruit snacks and the pasta because they want to give their kids a healthy option. And so if they, if people knew that this wasn’t truly according to the class action of preservative free, they might not go ahead and pay the Annie’s homegrown tax so to speak, to get the, the, the added value of being part of the Annie’s brand.

They might go for a less expensive option. And it’s important to note with this class action that this one right now is seeking to represent New York residents only. But with this we could very likely see it expand to a national level, especially if it’s certified in federal court. So even though you know, if you’re outside of New York have no fear, you want to keep an eye on this, we’ll likely see this expand to a nationwide basis and any potential settlement in the future.

Farron Cousins:                  And a lot of the reason people try to go for these no preservative foods is obviously if there’s no preservatives, that means it does not have a very long shelf life. So they assume they see it on the box, no preservatives. This is a fresher product. This is a newer product. It hasn’t been sitting in the back of the store for six months. I want to go with this. So that’s also a lot of the problem here is that people think they’re getting something fresher than it actually is. And once again, as always, it just comes down to be honest about what you’re putting in your products and then we won’t have any problems at all.

But unfortunately that little just be honest thing is sometimes a little too much for some companies. For more information on this particular issue, follow the link in the description of this video, head to topclassactions.com and while you’re there, sign up for the newsletters, get all of the important issues consumers need to know about delivered to your inbox every single week. Scott Hardy, topclassactions.com, I appreciate your time today.

Scott Hardy:                          Okay, thanks Farron, I appreciate your time as well.

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at DeSmogBlog.com. He is the co-host / guest host for Ring of Fire Radio. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced