Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

Class Action Against Kellogg for Serial Cereal Puffery Continues

Plaintiff Stephen Hadley has filed a lawsuit claiming that the many different Kellogg breakfast products he ate for breakfast were not as healthy as the breakfast maker has claimed. And while Kellogg denies these allegations, the company was not successful in having the case dismissed at the earliest possible stage.

Now, the case can continue on in the Northern District Court of California. Mr. Hadley is seeking to prove that nearly 30 different Kellogg products ranging from cereal bars to breakfast cereals contained more sugar than is actually healthy but nevertheless Kellogg advertised the products as "healthy." Perhaps most shockingly, one of the flagship cereals, Raisin Bran, has had its health benefits called into question, two scoops and all.

Mere Cereal Puffery

The court noted that several of the phrases in question do not amount to anything more than mere sales puffery. For instance, when a Kellogg product's box claims it is "unbelievably nutritious" and "positively nutritious," the court found that these phrases were just sales puffery, or language that consumers are not meant to rely upon.

However, the court explained that less exciting terms, like "nutritious" and "wholesome," are more than just puffery. Of the nearly 30 products in question, the court only dismissed claims related to five, meaning that there are still well over 20 products still at issue in this case.

What's Puffery?

When it comes to consumer products, including foodstuffs, companies are allowed to exaggerate in their advertising. The oft used legal term for the permissible exaggeration is puffery, or mere puffery. However, the exaggerations have to stop where it is clearly no longer an exaggeration, or is stated in a way that a reasonable person would not know it is exaggeration, hyperbole, or just mere puffery.

Essentially, though there are several issues involving both California and federal law at play in this case, it's a case about how far food manufacturers can go in using descriptive language about their products' health benefits, or healthiness.

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