Nestle and Gerber Sued for Deceptive Marketing of “Transition” Infant Formula

On Tuesday, Melissa Garza filed a class action complaint in the Northern District of Illinois against Nestle USA, Inc. on behalf of a putative class, for allegedly selling “transition infant formula” to children aged 12 to 24 months when the World Health Organization, and other reputable pediatric health organizations, all agreed that they should be given normal cow’s milk.

Nestle owns Gerber, which is one of the most well-known names in the baby food industry. The complaint explained that they sell transition formula which is nearly identical to infant formula, designed for infants aged zero to twelve months, with the key exception that transition formula is marketed for 1-2 year olds. The plaintiff alleged that “the identical labeling elements further this impression and ride the coattails of the carefully regulated infant formula products to drive sales.” Also, “child nutrition experts universally oppose consumption of added sugars” for 1-2 year olds, yet the transition formula contains 15 grams of added sugar which is 60% of the daily value for adults. The transition formula is also nearly four times the cost of whole cow’s milk, causing parents to spend more on an inferior product for their young toddlers. 

Garza argued that “had [they] and class members known the truth, they would not have bought the Product or would have paid less for it” at a premium price of $17.48 per 680 grams of powder, excluding tax. Due to “deceptive” marketing strategies and Gerber’s widespread brand recognition, “70%  of  persons  surveyed  believed  transition  formulas  like Good  Start  Grow is  a suitable drink for children in this age range.” The plaintiff and putative class are suing on the counts of violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, breach of express and implied warranty, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and unjust enrichment.

The plaintiff is seeking class certification and being appointed as the class representative, injunctive relief enjoining Nestle to correct the challenge practices to comply with the law, restitution and disgorgement, monetary damages, statutory and/or punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs, and other relief.

Garza is represented by Sheehan & Associates, P.C.