Federal Trade Commission files lawsuit against Gerber for falsely claiming its infant formula can prevent allergies

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by Jay Pate

The Federal Trade Commission has filed a lawsuit against Gerber Products for deceptively advertising that feeding the company’s Good Start Gentle baby formula to infants with a family history of allergies will prevent or reduce the risk that the infant will develop allergies. Gerber does not have evidence to back up the claim, according to the FTC. Gerber also falsely advertised that the allergy health claim had been approved by the FDA, according to the lawsuit. The FTC is seeking to prohibit Gerber from making the alleged false and unsubstantiated allergy-prevention claims.

Gerber placed a sticker on the product’s package stating that Good Start Gentle Formula is the: “1st & ONLY Routine Formula TO REDUCE THE RISK OF DEVELOPING ALLERGIES.” Some ads for the formula prominently featured a gold badge stating that Good Start Gentle is the “1st and Only” formula that “Meets FDA Qualified Health Claims.”

Good Start Gentle is made with partially hydrolyzed whey proteins (PHWP). Gerber claims that feeding babies this formula, instead of formula made with intact cow’s milk proteins, will prevent or reduce the risk that they will develop allergies. Gerber lacked the scientific substantiation to make such allergy-prevention claims, according to the FTC’s complaint.

The FTC states that Gerber petitioned the FDA in 2009 for permission to make a claim connecting PWHP with the reduced risk of one type of allergy, atopic dermatitis, in infants. The FDA allowed Gerber to make that narrow claim (one type of allergy, atopic dermatitis) but only if Gerber carefully qualified all such statemenst to make it clear that there is “little scientific evidence” for the relationship.

According to the FTC, Gerber was never “approved” to make any general allergy claims and was never approved to make even the single type of allergy claim unless statements were qualified to make it clear there was “little scientific evidence.” The lawsuit is pending in in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson fighting for families

The attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have represented numerous plaintiffs in consumer fraud and consumer class action lawsuits. For instance, we recently represented individuals who allege they were misled by claims made by Samsung regarding the memory capacity of its Galaxy S4 phone and numerous consumers who claim they were defrauded into investing in life settlements.

Our law firm is particularly proud of the work we have done on behalf children who have been hurt as a result of the negligence of others, including multi-million dollar verdicts in a case involving a child hurt in a bus crash, a case involving medical errors that resulted in permanent brain damage to an 8-year-old, and a case involving a newborn who suffered brain damage after being improperly discharged from the hospital.

Our law firm has represented clients across the country in class action lawsuits against multimillion-dollar companies, making sure that when people are hurt by corporate wrongdoing, the companies that do so are held accountable for their actions. Heygood, Orr & Pearson is AV-rated, the highest rating available from Martindale-Hubble, the top law firm rating service. Our partners Michael Heygood, Jim Orr, and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and have all been voted by their peers as “Super Lawyers” in the state of Texas for several consecutive years.*

If you have been a victim of false or misleading advertising, contact the law firm of Heygood, Orr & Pearson for a free consultation so we can help you determine the best way to protect your legal rights and interests. You can reach us by calling our toll-free hotline at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free case evaluation form located on this page.

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* Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2014.