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‘Puffery’ on product label was okay, court says

A manufacturer isn’t allowed to make false or misleading statements in its advertising or on a product label. But in a recent case involving the Gerber baby food company, a California court ruled that claims made on its labels, while vague and open to interpretation, were not over the line.

Gerber said on some of its labels that its products were “an excellent source” of various vitamins and minerals, that they provided “natural immune support” and helped create “healthy growth and development,” and that they contained “no added sugar.”

A California consumer brought a class action, claiming that the statements about vitamins and health were misleading. She argued that while the statements may have been literally true, consumers were tricked into paying a premium price for Gerber products even though other baby food products contained essentially the same health benefits.

She also argued that while the claim about “no added sugar” might be true, it was misleading because consumers would naturally assume that the baby food was low in calories – which it wasn’t.

But the court threw out the lawsuit. It said that Gerber’s statements were factually accurate, and the fact that one consumer might be misled about what they implied didn’t make them illegal.

A consumer can’t bring a lawsuit unless she can prove that a broad swath of the public was actually duped into buying a product they otherwise wouldn’t have, the court said.

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