CVS Sued Over False Representation of Formula Toddler Beginnings

Plaintiff Stephanie Surratt filed a class action complaint on Saturday against defendant CVS Pharamacy, Inc. (CVS) in the Northern District of Illinois over allegations that CVS was falsely marketing its product Toddler Beginnings in violation of multiple consumer fraud acts.

Infant formula sales have been decreasing for almost 20 years as breastfeeding rates have gone up, per the complaint. Companies who sell formula have had to adjust their strategies in response to a dwindling market.

To counter the loss in revenue from infant formula, the plaintiff alleged that companies like the defendant have begun producing and selling “transition formulas, follow-on formulas, weaning formulas, toddler milks, and growing-up milks.” They have also increased their advertising budget on these formulas almost threefold, court documents say.

The complaint also cited claims from the Infant Nutrition Council of America, which recommended that transition formulas be used to fill nutrition gaps beyond 12 months, while other pediatric health organizations reportedly disagreed with this conclusion. The American Association of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition and certain sub-committees of the World Health Organization instead advised that “beyond 12 months, nutritional needs should be met with whole cow’s milk, water and health whole foods as part of a balanced diet.”

The plaintiff explains that CVS markets their Toddler Beginnings product in an almost identical manner to their infant formula, which allows them to “capitalize on consumers’ familiarity and acceptance of federally-approved infant formula and continue selling them the same or substantially identical products even when their children are no longer infants, defined as zero to twelve months old.” By representing the two different products in almost the same way, the complaint argues that the defendant incorrectly represents that Toddler Beginnings should be fed to children following infancy, despite conflicting recommendations from multiple pediatric health organizations.

Further, the packaging of Toddler Beginnings describes the product in an identical manner to the defendant’s infant formula and displays nutrition information using an infant formula panel. The plaintiff believes this is an attempt by CVS to make the product appear more serious and quasi-clinical, also citing that “studies have shown that the similar labeling of infant and transition formulas causes caregivers to make inaccurate and ill-advised nutritional purchasing decisions.”

Toddler Beginnings is also allegedly inconsistent with nutrition advice and more expensive than more well-suited alternatives. The defendant includes on the Toddler Beginnings packaging a label that says “Non-GMO,” which Surratt contends is attempt to mimic a genuine non-GMO approval in violation of FTC guidelines.

The complaint cites violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, State Consumer Fraud Acts, breach of contract, breach of express warranty, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and unjust enrichment. The plaintiff is seeking class certification, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, monetary, statutory, and punitive damages, litigations fees, and any other relief deemed just by the Court.

The plaintiff is represented by Sheehan & Associates.