|Plaintiffs in the case alleged Cargill misled consumers by advertising Truvia as a natural sweetener.|
HONOLULU — While not admitting any wrongdoing, Cargill has agreed to pay up to $6.1 million and modify the labeling of Truvia sweeteners under a class settlement final approval filed Nov. 26 in a U.S. district court in Hawaii. The plaintiffs in the case alleged Cargill misled consumers by advertising Truvia as a natural sweetener and charging more for it than its sugar-alternative competitors when, the plaintiffs alleged, Truvia is largely synthetic and produced chemically.
“We are pleased to have reached a settlement with all plaintiffs involved in this matter and are pleased that the settlement won approval by the court,” Minneapolis-based Cargill said in a statement on Dec. 1. “The court’s order concludes a settlement process that began last year and resolves all of the claims on a nationwide basis. We stand behind the labeling of our Truvia natural sweetener consumer products. Those products are made from natural ingredients and the labeling meets all applicable legal and regulatory guidelines.”
The district court in Hawaii on May 19 consolidated four separate class-action lawsuits filed in four different states. A class settlement agreement was filed June 19. Cargill did not admit liability.
“Cargill has denied and continues to deny that the labeling, advertising or marketing of its Truvia consumer products is false, deceptive or misleading to consumers or violates any legal requirement, including but not limited to the allegations that Cargill engaged in unfair, unlawful, fraudulent or deceptive trade practices, breached an express warranty or was unjustly enriched,” Cargill said in the June 19 filing. “Cargill is entering into this class settlement agreement solely because it will eliminate the uncertainty, distraction, burden and expense of further litigation.”
The court’s final approval was filed Nov. 26.
“Plaintiffs obtained significant changes by filing this lawsuit to challenge Truvia’s label,” said Melissa Wolchansky, an attorney with Halunen & Associates in Minneapolis and a lead plaintiff’s attorney.
Cargill will establish a settlement fund of $6.1 million. The company in the June 13 agreement said it would modify the labeling of Truvia consumer products and a web site for Truvia.
If Cargill places “Nature’s Calorie-Free Sweetener” on a Truvia package, an asterisk must follow that tells consumers to visit www.Truvia.com/FAQ for more information. Cargill also may avoid the asterisk by choosing to omit the word “nature” and by promoting Truvia as a calorie-free sweetener from stevia.
The ingredients in Truvia are stevia, erythritol and natural flavors. The court settlement says Cargill must stop saying erythritol is produced by a natural process. Instead, Cargill may say erythritol is produced by a fermentation process. Cargill in product packaging has agreed to stop saying that making Truvia is similar to making tea. Instead the company may continue to say stevia leaves are steeped in water.On the www.Truvia.com web site, Cargill may continue to say Truvia is non-G.M.O and does not contain any genetically modified organisms. The web site may continue to say that no known varieties of genetically modified stevia are available and that erythritol is produced by a yeast organism found in nature and is not genetically modified.