Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Now THIS is a frivolous lawsuit

A lawsuit has been filed, and seeks to be certified as a class action, based on the argument that “reduced sugar” in fact means something other than “reduced sugar”.

Jennifer Hardee has sued three big cereal companies, accusing them of misleading advertising through prominent "low sugar" packaging. She was surprised to learn from an Associated Press story last week that the new cereals have no significant nutritional advantage to regular versions of the popular kids' breakfast cereals.

Well, DUH! Just because sugar is one of the targets of the nanny-staters, along with dietary fat, pesticides, genetically engineered improvements, fertilizers, etc., etc., putting less sugar in a processed food doesn’t make any nutritional change other than… LESS SUGAR. While this should be manifestly obvious to anyone with a brain in his/her head, Jennifer Hardee apparently ASSUMED that “less sugar” means something other than “less sugar”. Now she’s suing the big three cereal makers over her assumption.

Howard Rubinstein of Miami, one of the lawyers representing Hardee, said the companies have intentionally misled consumers by displaying low-sugar labels prominently on the packages. Consumers don't always understand the details in nutritional labels, he said.

"A lot of people, quite frankly, don't have the educational ability to make those decisions. They rely on the one-line ad," he said Monday. "It is that kind of an ad that adds a lot of ambiguity, and it shouldn't."

I can hear this argument in court, “well your honor, my client reasonably relied upon her assumption that “less sugar” doesn’t mean “less sugar”, it means “there are other nutritional changes to this product aside from ‘less sugar’ which you should assume from the fact that the package says ‘less sugar’.”

In other words, “my client is too damn stupid to figure out what the nutritional labels required by the government say, and too stupid to stand in the store and compare them, and because she automatically assumes that “less sugar” means “nutritionally superior” she’s entitled to sue and those companies should have to pay somebody because they said “less sugar” and they should have said “less sugar, but that only means less sugar, it does not mean something else other than what it says, and specifically it does not mean that less sugar actually means nutritionally superior…which we never said in the first place”… oh, and by the way, your Honor, it is my client they should have to pay, because she has suffered damages by feeding her children cereal with less sugar when she thought she was feeding them cereal with less sugar that would be nutritionally superior to cereal with more sugar, by virtue of the fact that it had less sugar…which in fact it does…have less sugar…

I would like to ask this attorney exactly what is “ambiguous” about the phrase “reduced sugar”? There’s NOTHING ambiguous about it…if people choose to ASSUME that it has some nutritional consequence other than what it says, that’s their problem. When did our society reach the point that no one has any responsibility for his/her own actions? The attorney alleges that the companies “intentionally misled” consumers by prominently putting “reduced sugar” on the package. Misled them into what? Believing there is less sugar? There IS less sugar…anything else anyone imagines as a consequence of “less sugar” is just that…their imagination.

This is similar to the “all natural” or “organic” products. Many people automatically assume that these phrases mean something other than what they say. Many people automatically assume these products are “healthier”. Well, the fact is, arsenic, strychnine and various snake venoms are “all natural”. They are not good for your health, but they are “all natural”. And study after study has shown that “organically grown” produce, i.e. without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or treatments, are more likely to be infected with harmful bacteria and contain insects, insect larvae, and insect eggs than are products produced commercially using chemicals.

Have we really reached the point where the law will enforce what people imagine something in writing should mean, rather than what it actually says? Oh, wait…I guess that question has already been answered. After all, isn’t that what the Supreme Court did in Roper v. Simmons?

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