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SAN FRANCISCO – (July 2, 2012) -Last Thursday, a federal judge in California ruled that a false advertising class action challenging the statements, “Healthy, Sustained Energy” and “healthy fats,” as made on the popular Muscle Milk® line of products, can proceed. The lawsuit alleges that these advertising representations, which are prominently featured on packaging for the products, are false and misleading because the products contain unhealthy ingredients, including fat, saturated fat and added sugars. Baron and Budd attorneys Roland Tellis and Mark Pifko in the firm’s Los Angeles office serve as counsel in the lawsuit. (Delacruz v. CytoSport, Inc., United States District Court, Northern District of California, case no. 4:11-cv-03532-CW)
According to the lawsuit, the central message of the Muscle Milk® advertising campaign is that the products are not loaded with unhealthy fats and added sugars, and that consuming Muscle Milk® provides a wide range of significant nutritional benefits. This message, however, is false and misleading, the lawsuit alleges.
Last summer, CytoSport, Inc., the maker of Muscle Milk® products, received a warning letter from the FDA, asserting that the company violated a number of FDA regulations. Among other things, the FDA’s letter said that the labels made unauthorized claims that Muscle Milk® products were “healthy.” Specifically, Muscle Milk® products violated FDA regulations because products cannot be labeled “healthy” unless they are low fat and low in saturated fat. According to the FDA’s letter, Muscle Milk® products exceeded permissible levels of fat and saturated fat.
In finding that the “Healthy, Sustained Energy” representation on Muscle Milk® products was an actionable misrepresentation, the Court explained that the statement conveys that the products are a “healthy source of energy and thus, may imply that they do not contain an unhealthy amount of fat and saturated fat.”
Additionally, in an order issued back in April, the Court found that CytoSport’s “healthy fats” representation on the bottle of its Ready-to-Drink Muscle Milk® product, could be false and misleading to consumers because a “reasonable consumer would be likely to believe that the drink contains unsaturated, not saturated fats. The drink container also states that it is a ‘nutritional shake.'” The Court explained that this representation “contributes to a sufficient claim of deceptive product labeling,” and “the injury to the consumer class as a whole could be substantial, even if the injury to individual consumers is minimal. No benefit is served by false and misleading advertising.”
“We are pleased with the Court’s ruling,” said attorney Mark Pifko. “It is an important step towards our client’s goal of holding CytoSport accountable for its false and misleading representations. CytoSport is capitalizing on a health and wellness trend among consumers who are prepared to pay more for products offering a wide range of nutritional benefits. But, you can’t just whip-up a blend of saturated fat, fractionated oil and added sugars, and slap a ‘healthy’ label on it.”
In the past few years, other false advertising challenges have been asserted against CytoSport, including a case alleging that the company materially misrepresented the amount of cholesterol and carbohydrates in the products, and a challenge arguing that Muscle Milk® was falsely and deceptively marketed because, despite the name, the product does not contain milk, but this is the first such case to move past the company’s legal challenges.
To learn more about the Muscle Milk lawsuit, contact Baron and Budd at 1.866.844.4556 or visit the firm’s website at baronandbudd.com.
Baron and Budd is a nationally recognized plaintiffs’ law firm with more than 30 years’ experience fighting to protect what’s right for consumers. The firm prides itself on remaining on the cutting-edge of meaningful litigation that protects consumers from negligent companies. Last year, Baron and Budd served on the plaintiffs’ steering committee in the Bank of America bank overdraft fee litigation that resulted in a $410 million settlement for consumers and forced Bank of America and other financial institutions to change overdraft fee policies. Since its expansion in 2011, the firm’s Los Angeles office has taken the lead on a number of high profile consumer lawsuits, including cases against companies in the banking, automotive and food product industries.