Are Fruit Snacks Deceptively Marketed as Healthy?

Sometimes you hear about a lawsuit and you have to wonder.

There are cases — like the infamous “Coffee is hot!” McDonald’s lawsuit — that seem frivolous at first but in actuality aren’t (the woman had 3rd degree burns on 6% of her body and was hospitalized for 8 days).

Then there are cases that seem solid at first, but are really built on shaky ground.

This latest kerfluffle with General Mills seems, to me, to be a case of the latter variety. The suit alleges that the company’s various fruit snacks are deceptively marketed as being healthy.

According to Adweek, the complaint reads in part, “Thus, although the Products were marketed as being healthful and nutritious for children and adults alike, selling these Fruit Snacks was little better than giving candy to children.”

Well. Duh. They’re not giving candy to children — they’re selling it.

Clearly there’s no benefit to eating fruit snacks — General Mills’ or another’s. They’re candy. They’re never going to be a basket of strawberries. For children with specific sensitivities to artificial colorings, I’m sure these are a Kryptonite nightmare. For parents who are focused on avoiding as many processed foods as possible, these are worth avoiding (you’ll find alternatives in your gluten-free grocery guide).

But, the claims that General Mills makes seem mostly reasonable, at least to me. Packaging claims the snacks:

  • Are “fruit flavored.” How else would anyone describe them? And is it so wrong to have the occasional cartoon strawberry on the packaging, if the food is strawberry-flavor?
  • Are low fat and low-cal. Most have fewer than 100 calories and 0-1 grams of fat per serving. Sounds appropriate to me.
  • Have “natural flavoring.” This one ought to be taken up with the FDA, as they’re the ones who dictate the term’s use.
  • Are gluten-free. True. They’ve been on safe Halloween candy lists for years.

This last claim is the one that provoked me into covering what really isn’t a GF issue. Just tired of people thinking that gluten-free automatically means healthier. For some of us, gluten-full means poison. But only for some of us. Not everyone. Not every child needs to give up gluten.

On the (long, long) list of evil children’s foods out there, these are no-where near the top. And I’m not convinced the packaging does anything wrong, or tries to talk anyone into making these part of a nutritious lunch — and since the gluten-free community has enough of a fight on its hands convincing everyone that we aren’t a bunch of paranoid delusionals, I really wish we’d been left out of this complaint.

What do you think? Do you feed your kids fruit snacks? Whose?

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