How much real strawberry do you expect to find in Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts? Does it even matter to you? Well it matters to someone enough, because they’ve started up a class action lawsuit on the matter for $5 million. It’s a bit more complicated than what it might seem at face value, so let’s try to scrape off the frosting, toast this pastry, and get to the heart of the matter.
The earliest date we can find for this saga starting comes from TopClassActions on August 24th, 2021. They state that the plaintiff Anita Harris filed a case in Illinois Federal Court that Kellogg’s has been misleading people about the ingredients within their strawberry flavored Pop-Tarts. In particular, the amount of actual strawberries.
To be exact, Harris claims “Kellogg’s engaged in negligent representation, fraud, and unjust enrichment by exaggerating the amount of strawberries in Frosted Strawberry Pop-Tarts in online promotions and on the product’s packaging.” Things go a little bit off the rails though as the lawsuit continues in stating that Kellogg’s is taking advantage of American’s desire to eat healthier.
“The benefits from strawberries cannot be provided by strawberry ‘flavor,’ which refers to compounds extracted from strawberries used solely for taste, without their nutritional value,”Harris v. Kellogg Sales Company
The story seems to have picked up some more traction as of late after TMZ reported it as well. However, their coverage of the story says that a claim has been filed by Elizabeth Russett in New York. Sometimes multiple different class action lawsuits can be pending simultaneously and other times they can be joined together to make a more compelling or potentially profitable case for the plaintiffs involved, or at least their attorneys. In fact, according to the TopClassActions, a similar suit was filed back in 2020.
This is not the first time that Kellogg’s has even faced suits like this. In June of this year there was a $13 million settlement made by the company in response to a lawsuit regarding cereals like Raisin Bran, Smart Start Antioxidants, and Frosted Mini-Wheats, regarding just how healthy they actually are. Many comparisons have been made to lawyers being sharks, so could this previous win have put blood in the water to inspire more recent lawsuits against Pop-Tarts? Well, maybe that’s exactly the case.
It is worth noting that the lawyer handling the claim for Anita Harris is Spencer Sheehan. An article from Today states that Sheehan also represented clients in lawsuits regarding King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls not actually being made in Hawaii, and Bagel Bites not being made with actual mozzarella cheese or tomato sauce. None of this is to make any specific judgment against the intent behind filing this case, but the timing of it after a relatively large settlement and the attorney involved, could easily fit the pattern of someone just hunting for potential lawsuits to profit off of.
To be perfectly fair, there is a legitimate case to be made to ensure that there is truth in advertising and packaging. Companies should not be allowed to make false or misleading claims about their products. For every person in the world who thinks they’re too smart to fall for these kinds of things, there’s someone else out there who very well may fall for it.
On the other hand though, there are frivolous lawsuits out there that do a terrible disservice to the legal system and upstanding attorneys that are fighting legitimate issues for those who need actual help. There are certainly parts of this suit that are overdramatized to an extent that seems like self-parody. For example, the suit states that the Plaintiff wanted, “more than a ‘strawberry taste’ which she nevertheless failed to receive.” This is also the same suit that as we previously mentioned, claimed that Kellogg’s was intentionally trying to take advantage of people wanting to eat healthy by pushing the idea of strawberries being in the pastries.
Personally, I feel like context matters tremendously in this situation. Earlier this year we reported about the lawsuit filed against Subway for their tuna allegedly not being tuna. That’s fair. When you go to Subway and order something, whether it be ham, turkey, tuna, etc; that’s what you expect to have on that sandwich. Similarly, you’d expect something similar when it comes to juice. If you buy apple juice, you would expect like, juice from apples. That’s why numerous lawsuits have been filed over the years against juice companies for the claims they’ve made about health benefits or the 100% actual juice contents.
With Pop-Tarts however, you’re dealing with frosted pastries that you put in a toaster; the expectations have to be a bit lowered here. Some of the packages do note that the pastries are “baked with real fruit*,” but that amount is less than 2% and also includes dried pear and apple. This is why the real fruit claim has an asterisk next to it. But disclaimer or not, TECHNICALLY, it is baked with real fruit, just maybe not enough to warrant the label on the front. However, we’re dealing with Pop-Tarts here and you should already know what you’re getting into by the fact that you’re buying a cake that you eat for breakfast. If you’re buying Pop-Tarts hoping for the nutritional value of and flavor of actual strawberries, then you may need to rethink your ideas of healthy eating and mass produced consumer goods.
Or maybe you just need to hire Lionel Hutz as your attorney instead.