America’s Most Misleading Product Claims

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6. Splenda
> Parent company: Johnson & Johnson
> Ad changed: N/A
> Settlement amount: N/A

Splenda is an artificial sweetener that promises the taste of sugar but with zero calories. Splenda Essentials, the brand’s higher-priced label, offers products fortified with fiber, B vitamins, or antioxidants. Last year, the CSPI filed a lawsuit against McNeil Nutritionals — the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary that manufactures Splenda — alleging the additions of fiber, vitamins and antioxidants gave customers the false impression that “Splenda Essentials will help one lose weight, avoid disease, or confer other health benefits.” McNeil Nutritionals was also sued several years ago by Merisant Co. — makers of rival product Equal — over its claim that Splenda was “made from sugar so it tastes like sugar.” The two sides eventually settled for an undisclosed amount. Splenda’s website notes that the product is made by altering sugar’s chemistry and is not natural.

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7. Nutella
> Parent company: Ferrero
> Ad changed: Yes
> Settlement amount: $3.05 million

Nutella is a popular spread that combines hazelnuts with cocoa and skim milk. In early 2011, a mother in California sued Ferrero, the company that owns Nutella, alleging that it made misleading health claims by suggesting the product was a healthy breakfast option despite its high saturated fat content. Ferrero eventually settled the class-action lawsuit for $3 million. The company also agreed to change its marketing statements, both on television and online. Although Ferrero agreed to limit its health claims, the Nutella is still marketed on its website as a way “to turn a balanced breakfast into a tasty one.” This claim is now preceded by a notice stating, “But keep in mind, a balanced breakfast should provide the proper balance of protein, carbohydrates from whole grains, fat and the nutrients provided by either a serving of fruit or vegetables.”

8. Hyundai and Kia
> Parent company: Hyundai Motor Co.
> Ad changed: Yes
> Settlement amount: Inconclusive

Drivers of new Hyundais and Kias may have paid a little more for gas than they were promised. In November, the EPA announced that Hyundai and Kia had overstated gas mileage for approximately 900,000 vehicles, or about 35% of the 2011-2013 models sold through October 2012. Kia and Hyundai overstated the mpg for most of the vehicles by one or two miles, with the Kia Soul overstated by as much as six miles. Both companies opted to reimburse drivers for the incorrect mileage claim with a prepaid debit card.

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9. Strawberry Naturally Flavored Fruit Roll-Up
> Parent company: General Mills
> Ad changed: Yes
> Settlement amount: Money not part of settlement

Strawberry Naturally Flavored Fruit Roll-Ups fell short in both its “strawberry” and “naturally flavored” claims. The maker of Fruit Roll-Ups, General Mills, settled a lawsuit late in 2012 over complaints that the snack contained no strawberries and that its ingredients were mostly synthetic. According to Consumer Affairs, while the snack contained no strawberries, it did contain “pears from concentrate, corn syrup, dried corn syrup, sugar, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, and 2 percent or less various natural and artificial ingredients.” The label on Fruit Roll-Ups still says “Made With Real Fruit,” but the company will have to disclose on its packaging the actual percentage of real fruit in the treat beginning in 2014.

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