Los Angeles, CA: A $6.1 million settlement has been agreed in a consumer fraud class action filed against Cargill Inc. The lawsuit alleged the company marketed its Truvia sweetener as natural when it actually contains largely synthetic and chemically produced ingredients.
According to the settlement terms, the agribusiness company will establish a $6.1 million fund which will cover attorney' fees, incentive fess of $2,000 per named plaintiff and distribution among a nationwide class who purchased any of the Truvia products during a six-year period that ended in July. Eligible class members who file claims will be entitled to receive up to $45 in cash or $90 in vouchers.
Additionally, as part of the settlement, Cargill will make certain label changes that will clarify its "Nature' Calorie-Free Sweetener"and "Truvia Natural Sweetener provides the same sweetness as two teaspoons of sugar"statements. Further it, will add language directing consumers to a new website with frequently asked questions, and update its Truvia website to better explain to consumers the manufacturing processes involved.
The lawsuit was originally filed in July 2013 alleging that in 2008 Cargill teamed up with Coca-Cola to develop a purportedly natural sweetener that would capitalize on consumers' desire for a health conscious, non-caloric alternative sweetener. The plaintiffs alleged the labelling and marketing campaign the company developed was deceitful, making consumers believe that Truvia is a natural sweetener made primarily from the stevia plant.
However, according to the complaint, the stevia-derived ingredient, Rebaudioside A, comprises only 1 percent of Truvia and is a highly chemically processed and purified form of stevia leaf extract. The main component of Truvia, erythritol, is synthetically fabricated.
The plaintiffs alleged that through this misleading advertising, the defendants were able to charge approximately 300 percent more per packet than Sweet 'N Low and 67 percent more per packet than Splenda.
The case is Denise Howerton, Erin Calderon and Ruth Pasarell, Individually and on Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated vs. Cargill Inc., case number 1:13-cv-00336, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.