ROLLA, MO. – Phoenix-based Van’s International Foods has agreed to a settlement of up to $9 million to resolve claims that the company mislabeled certain frozen breakfast products as “all natural” when the items contained sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP), a synthetic ingredient that typically serves as a leavening agent, according to court documents. The Hillshire Brands Co. acquired Van’s in April 2014; Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods Inc. acquired Hillshire that same year in August. The Circuit Court of Phelps County, Mo., gave preliminary approval of the settlement in June.
In a statement, Tyson said SAPP is “… commonly used in small amounts in baking powder to help products rise during the baking process and is commonly found in baking powder …”
“We take our ingredients very seriously and do not agree with this lawsuit,” the company added. “We do not believe labeling these products as ‘natural’ was inconsistent with consumer expectations and the ingredient at issue is clearly labeled on the packaging. Although we don’t agree with the lawsuit, it’s best for us to move forward as we would rather focus on delivering on our mission to provide simple, delicious foods made with wholesome ingredients.”
Under the terms of the settlement, Van’s agreed to compensate consumers who bought breakfast products such as frozen waffles, frozen french toast, frozen pancakes and muffins that were covered under the class action. The company also agreed to change the company’s product labels.
“This injunction shall last only so long as the products contain SAPP or until Van’s determines based on court decisions or changes in regulatory guidance or applicable law … that the use of the term ‘all natural,’ or any term substantially similar thereto, in products containing SAPP is not impermissible,” according to the settlement order.
The lawsuit alleged that certain Van’s frozen breakfast products sold after January 2009 were falsely labeled as “All Natural,” “Totally Natural” or “Naturally Delicious.” The company has denied any wrongdoing. The case is Diana Jill Miloro et al. v. Van’s Food International Inc.
Affected consumers may claim a minimum of $4.99 to a maximum $18 depending on the consumers’ ability to provide proof of purchase. Attorneys representing the class action are seeking $1.9 million in fees and expenses. A final approval hearing is scheduled for September.
The Van’s product line features a portfolio of gluten-free products, including chips, cereals, crackers, french toast, pancakes, waffles and snack bars. The company also sells non-gluten free french toast, pancakes and waffles.