February 15, 2010

Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Bars Sued in Class Action Lawsuit

A class action lawsuit filed in Southern California last week claims that Kellogg's Nutri-Grain bar packaging and advertising deceptively mislead consumers. The suit claims that Nutri-Grain bars allow you to "Eat Better all Day" because they contain calcium and whole grains; however, the bars also contain trans fat, which is known to elevate LDL levels and increase heart disease risk. The plaintiffs also contend that the product packaging is misleading in that it shows Nutri-Grain bars next to a water bottle, salad, apple and person exercising - all implying that Nutri-Grain bars are part of a healthy lifestyle.

So are Nutri-Grain bars really a good source of whole grain? On the Nutri-Grain website, Kellogg's proudly displays an "8 gram of whole grain per serving" stamp from the Whole Grains Council - a topic covered in a previous post. While this is not the more admirable100% Whole Grain stamp from the Whole Grains Council, it does indicate that there are some whole grains in the product. A nutrition facts panel from a Nutri-Grain bar - in this case the Blackberry Bar - shows that one bar has 2 grams of dietary fiber and 130 calories:
The first ingredient in Nutri-Grain bars is whole grain rolled oats - a good source of whole grain; however, the second most prolific ingredient in the product is enriched wheat flour - basically, white flour with some vitamins added back in. Nutri-Grain bars are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, sugar, honey, and dextrose. The 2 grams of fiber comes not necessarily from the rolled oats, but from the added isolated fiber sources of bran and soluble corn fiber. 

And how can they get away with saying the product is trans-fat free on the label when the plaintiffs contend the bars do have trans fat? Well, as of January 1, 2006, the FDA mandates that trans fat be listed on a food's Nutrition Facts panel. There is a loophole however that permits any food containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving to be labeled trans fat free. So you can see products that have "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" (i.e. trans fat) in their ingredient list, while it says 0 grams trans fat on the food label. Manufacturers can determine their own portion size, so many have decreased portion sizes while retaining trans fat and getting in under the 1/2 gram of trans fat per serving rule; others have merely replaced trans fat with saturated fat, another heart-unhealthy fat that also raises LDL cholesterol levels.

So, if you are now looking for a healthier breakfast alternative to the highly processed Nutri-Grain bar...try one half-cup of quick cooking oats made with one cup of nonfat milk and a half cup of blueberries for a more filling 270 calories, 1/3 of your daily calcium needs and 6 grams of fiber.