Class Action Lawsuits Target Muscle Milk, Hain Celestial, R.W. Knudsen

False advertising and misleading label statements are at the heart of a trio of recently filed class action lawsuits against well-known beverage companies.

As reported by Legal Newsline and Law360, plaintiffs in the three unrelated cases allege that Hain Celestial, R.W. Knudsen, and Cytosport, maker of Muscle Milk products, are misleading consumers about the formulation of their products.

Muscle Milk bottlesFor Cytosport, which was acquired by Hormel Foods in July, the lawsuit is yet another targeting Muscle Milk. The company has for years been dogged by consumer watchdog groups and government agencies which take issue with use of the word “milk” in the name of brand whose products contains none of the actual ingredient. Cytosport has also faced accusations that while it positions Muscle Milk products as a healthy and nutritious, they are in actuality packed with fats. In 2013, the company agreed to a $5.275 million settlement to resolve such claims.

In the most recent lawsuit filed against Cytosport, plaintiffs Chayla Clay, Erica Ehrlichman and Logan Reicher allege that Muscle Milk labels lead consumers to believe that the brand’s products contain significant amounts of muscle-building ingredients, including L-Glutamine, and present a sub-line of its ready-to-drink and powered beverages as “lean.”

The lawsuit, filed on Jan. 23 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, contends that Cytosport “products contain significantly less protein that what is claimed and displayed.” Moreover, the company “fortifies its Lean Muscle Milk Products with sunflower and canola oils, considerable sources of fat” and “has no basis to label is Lean Muscle Milk Products as ‘lean’.”

The plaintiffs are seeking to recover “damages and other legal and equitable relief” and all “costs and expenses” associated with filing the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, two consumers are claiming that food and beverage conglomerate Hain Celestial falsely advertises its tea products as “100 percent natural.” Sandra Burga, of Orange County, Calif., and Alison Conforti, of Brooklyn, N.Y. allege that Hain’s teas contain ascorbic acid and soy lecithin, and because the company sources both ingredients from genetically modified (GMO) crops, the products do not meet the criteria for “natural.”

R.W. Knudsen Family Organic Blueberry Pomegranate JuiceBurga and Conforti claim that they paid a premium for the teas because they were presented as “100 percent natural” and would not have purchased the products otherwise. They allege that Hain is in violation of consumer and business law, consumer fraud, and false advertising, and are seeking a “corrective advertising campaign; stricter accounting for profits from the products in question; actual, punitive and statutory damages; attorneys’ fees and litigation costs,” according to Legal Newsline. The case was filed on Jan. 26 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Across the country, R.W. Knudsen, which produces a range of shelf-stable juice products, was hit with a class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida Tallahassee Division, which alleges that the company mislabels and omits ingredients from its R.W. Knudsen Family Organic Blueberry Pomegranate Juice.

Melvin Youmans and Lois Koons claim that Knudsen fails to disclose that the beverage contains concentrated and/or reconstituted ingredients, including organic apple juice concentrate, blueberry puree, pomegranate juice concentrate and lemon juice concentrate. The plaintiffs claim that they avoid processed juices and that Knudsen misled them about the beverage. Youmans and Koons accuse Knudsen of being in violation of Florida consumer protection statutes and trade practice law, false advertising, breach of warranty, negligence and unjust enrichment. They are seeking a corrective advertising campaign, injunctions against current labeling practices and compensation for damages and legal fees.