In an unusual move by a major brand, CPG giant Nestlé responded this week to a $5 million U.S. class action suit over trans fats in its frozen pizza brands by posting a video on YouTube that pushed back against the claims.
The video, posted Wednesday on Nestle USA's corporate YouTube channel, was removed without explanation on Thursday (update: it's now back online).
The suit, filed by Katie Simpson of San Diego, Calif., claims that Nestle’s frozen pizza brands—DiGiorno, Stouffer’s, and California Pizza Kitchen—are a danger to public health because they contain trans fats. The ingredients are legal in U.S. packaged goods, though the state of California, New York City and Philadelphia have banned their use in restaurants.
"Katie has two young children and she likes to make pizza for them, and all kids love pizza," her attorney, Greg Watson, told ABC's Good Morning America. "It shouldn't have a toxic food additive that's been banned all around the world."
In the video posted on YouTube, Paul Bakus, president of the Nestlé Pizza Division, addressed the suit.
Bakus said that since the company bought the frozen-pizza business from Kraft three years ago, it has reduced use of trans fats by more than 50 percent, and would have them all removed by summer. He also noted that trans fats are marked clearly in their packaged products' ingredients.
In a statement also issued Wednesday, the company said it was "disappointed" by the suit and echoed most of Bakus' video remarks, but did not reiterate the pledge to have all trans fats out of its frozen pizzas within any timeframe. "We believe people want to make an informed choice about the foods they eat and understand that some people may choose to avoid foods containing (trans fats)," the statement said.
Update: Nestle US PR confirmed by email, "We plan to eliminate all added TFAs in our pizzas by the end of June 2013."
ABC noted that some previous suits over trans fats have succeeded. McDonald’s shelled out $8.5 million to settle two suits in 2005 that claimed the chain wasn’t clear with its customers about the levels of trans fats in its offerings.
That, however, was a restaurant; the current suit regards packaged goods, and is not tied to the California Pizza Kitchen restaurant chain itself.
Sunny Hostin, one of the network's legal analysts, said "it's clear that these companies haven't broken any rules."