Nestle in Court Fight to Defend Frozen Pizza

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SAN DIEGO—The frozen pizza business must play defense thanks to a class-action lawsuit that a San Diego woman filed against California Pizza Kitchen, Inc. and Nestle USA, Inc.

The pizza companies find themselves and their brands — California Pizza Kitchen, DiGiornio and Stouffer's — in federal court in Southern California for placing trans fat in the frozen pies. Nestle makes all three brands of frozen pies.

California Pizza Kitchen and Nestle make and sell pizzas that contain a food additive — partially hydrogenated vegetable oil — that has been banned in many parts of the world due to its content of artificial trans fat, according to the lawsuit filed by a San Diego law firm on behalf of the named plaintiff Katie Simpson. As outlined in the complaint, Simpson purchased the pizzas at least five times over the last year, including two California Pizza Kitchen pies that contained pepperoni and barbeque chicken.

"Although there are safe, low-cost, and commercially acceptable alternatives to trans fat, including those used in competing brands and even in a few Nestle and CPK products, Defendants unfairly elect not to use those substitutes in the Nestle Trans Fat Pizzas in order to increase profit at the expense of consumer health," plaintiff's lawyer Gregory Weston alleged in the lawsuit.

The complaint claims the defendants have engaged in unfair practices under the California Unfair Competition Law, and among the relief sought, it seeks an order requiring the defendants to discontinue those practices and "disgorge any benefits received from Plaintiff and/or unjust enrichment realized as a result of unfair practices."

Nestle referred to the allegations in the lawsuit as "baseless".

"Our pizzas are safe and in strict compliance with the requirements of USDA and FDA," the company declared in a statement Jan. 30. "The presence of any trans fats (FTAs) are clearly listed on our ingredients labels. Since we acquired the business three years ago from Kraft, we have worked to improve the recipes by reducing the number of ingredients and have reduced the amount of TFAs in our pizzas by 50 percent."

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