Annie’s mac and cheese products may come with a “Bunny of Approval,” but the bunny appears to approve of harmful chemicals, according to a new nationwide class action lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed in New York federal court Thursday by Plaintiff Shelby Franklin, who alleges Annie’s parent company General Mills knowingly concealed that its mac and cheese products contain chemicals known as phthalates.
The lawsuit says phthalates are “dangerous and harmful chemicals when consumed”, especially by pregnant women and kids.
The lawsuit names 23 Annie’s brand mac and cheese products as containing these chemicals, including its organic varieties. It says General Mills markets to the health-conscious consumer, and states its products don’t contain artificial flavors, synthetic colors, or preservatives, when they actually do contain the harmful chemicals.
General Mills uses a “cute bunny as a mascot” on the products, along with a “Bunny of Approval,” and the phrase “Made with Goodness!,” according to the class action lawsuit.
“Reasonable consumers, including Plaintiffs and Class Members, value these claims for important reasons, including the belief that they are safer and healthier than alternative products that are not represented as organic or one’s that are made with goodness.”
However, because the products are contaminated with phthalates, General Mills’ representations are allegedly false, deceptive and willfully malicious, Franklin, who bought the products, alleges.
The lawsuit says it has been revealed through public reports and articles, including on General Mills’ own website, that Annie’s mac and cheese products contain phthalates, but the company still doesn’t note it on its product packaging.
It claims that in the last few years, researchers have linked phthalates to health issues such as asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, as well as low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues.
However, the CDC states human health effects from exposure to low levels of phthalates are unknown.
On its website FAQ’s, Annie’s notes that phthalates are widely used to make plastics more pliable and can be found in anything from farm equipment to conveyor belts and packaging ink.
It says its mac and cheese products have been tested and it knows any trace of phthalates are below the [European Food Safety Authority] standard, as the FDA has not yet adopted a threshold for levels of the chemicals in food.
Franklin is seeking to represent a nationwide Class of consumers who bought the products anywhere in the United States, as well as a New York Subclass.
She is suing for breach of warranty and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and for fraudulent concealment and unjust enrichment. She is also suing under New York General Business Law (NYGBL) false advertising clauses.
Franklin is seeking certification of the Class, damages of up to $550 per transaction for violations of the NYGBL, treble damages, punitive damages, costs, expenses and a jury trial.
Last month, a California man who says he found sugar-coated shrimp tails in his box of General Mills Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal sounded the alarm, and is getting the tails tested.
Have you eaten Annie’s mac and cheese products? Let us know what you think of this lawsuit in the comments!
Franklin is represented by Jason P. Sultzer, Joseph Lipari and Daniel Markowitz of the Sultzer Law Group PC and Charles E. Schaffer and David C. Magagna Jr. of Levin Sedran & Berman LLP.
The Annie Mac’s Phthalates Class Action Lawsuit is Franklin et al, v. General Mills Inc., Case No 2:21-cv-01781, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
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