Truth in labeling: What’s really in your food?

December 6, 2011  |  Class Actions

Did you know that the meat substitute Quorn contains a fermented fungus?

Doesn’t exactly sound appetizing, does it?

Quorn has become a controversial product because it contains a microscopic fungus, called mycoprotein, known to cause violent allergic reactions, vomiting and diarrhea, according to a report by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit has asked in a letter to the FDA to either take the Quorn off the market or place a warning label on its products.

Mycoprotein, the main Quorn ingredient, is a fermented fungus mixed with vegetable flavoring, egg whites and other ingredients that is then shaped into patties and frozen.

This is the third time the nonprofit has asked the FDA to place regulations on Quorn. In 2002, CSPI asked the agency to take the product off the market. The agency even launched a website (www.quorncomplaints.com) to collect information from consumers affected by the product. In February 2002, CSPI first complained about deceptive labeling of Quorn and the inadequate testing of the fungal product.

Since CSPI launched the complaint website nearly a decade ago, it says it has collected 500 reports from Americans and 1,200 more from European and Australian consumers. Many of those complaints include claims of negative reactions including vomiting and diarrhea, fainting or blood appearing in stool, vomit, or eyes. A smaller percentage of complaints involved hives or potentially fatal allergic reactions.

A 22-year-old Massachusetts man told CSPI that he vomited several hours after eating Quorn Tenders—and eight days later after eating Quorn Nuggets. A 35-year-old Maryland woman reported severe vomiting and diarrhea several hours after eating Quorn tenders.

Quorn Foods Inc., owned by London-based Exponent Private Equity, has been sold in the United Kingdom since 1985. It launched in the United States in 2002. The company claims that it is the top selling retail brand of meat-free foods in the world.

If the FDA keeps the product on the market, CSPI said it would like the following to appear prominently on its labels:

"Warning: This product might cause severe diarrhea or vomiting, or a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction; an allergy might develop only after consuming the product several times."

Unfortunately, Quorn isn’t the first –or only –food product that has caused adverse reactions or that hasn’t been completely honest with consumers. A surprising number of products on the shelf don’t tell the truth and are ultimately misrepresented to consumers. Some products, for example, may have promised to contain certain ingredients or that they qualify as "natural" under FDA standards –when they don’t.

Always proud to be on the cutting-edge of new and meaningful litigation that protects consumers, Baron and Budd is currently investigating numerous food products for misleading consumers.

Some of these products include:

Country of Origin Labeling and Honey:

  • Market Pantry (Target’s private label brand) Pure Honey – You may have recently heard about concerns about where America’s honey comes from. Target’s Market Pantry honey says it is "grade A," a USDA quality designation, but contrary to federal laws and regulations, Target’s honey does not identify the country of origin.

Pet Products:

  • Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Mobility – Hill’s claims that its Healthy Mobility dog food will treat your dog’s joint diseases and arthritis, with statements like, "improves flexibility in 30 days," "improves your dog’s mobility in just 30 days," and claims that its Healthy Mobility food provides "tested nutrition to enhance active mobility in just 30 days." The FDA recently concluded, however, that "experts qualified by scientific training and experience to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of animal drugs" have not recognized the product as effective for the labeled conditions, and that as a result, the product is "unsafe" and "adulterated" under federal laws and regulations.

Kent Nutrition’s World’s Best Cat Litter – In violation of the Federal Trade Commission’s "Guides for Use of Environmental Marketing Claims", Kent Nutrition inaccurately claims that its World’s Best Cat Litter is biodegradable (without any qualification or discussion about the narrow conditions under which the product actually may be biodegradable). The Federal Trade Commission also raised concerns about the company’s claims that World’s Best Cat Litter is safe for septic systems.

Contact us at 1.866.844.4556 or via email at info@baronbudd.com to take action.

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