Suit targets Gretna firm, Hy-Vee over label's claim regarding sugar, protein content

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Posted: Friday, February 21, 2014 12:00 am

Hy-Vee Inc. and a Gretna nutritional-products distributor have been sued for selling a powdered supplement touted as being high in protein and low in sugar that a Nebraska consumer says was mislabeled and contained far more sugar than advertised.

Olivia Ruhlman, who shopped at Hy-Vee supermarkets in Lincoln and Omaha, filed the suit last week in U.S. District Court in Omaha. The suit says that for four years Hy-Vee sold a nutritional supplement called Healthy 100% Whey supplied by a Gretna company called NNW.

Hy-Vee stopped selling Healthy 100% Whey in September after NNW issued a voluntary recall, company spokeswoman Christine Friesleben said.

“We have not carried the product since that time,” Friesleben said. “Hy-Vee is committed to providing our customers with services and products that enhance and support their healthy lifestyles.”

Hy-Vee does not comment on pending litigation, she said.

Email and voice-mail messages left with NNW were not returned.

The suit, which is seeking class-action status on behalf of other consumers, says the product was mislabeled as having 22 grams of protein and one gram of sugar per 28-gram serving.

The powder really had less than five grams of protein and more than 20 grams of sugar per 28-gram serving, the suit says. The whey powder sold for as much as $45 for five pounds.

“In essence, Hy-Vee was selling customers nothing more than bags of sugar at an astronomical price,” the suit reads.

David Guastello, the Kansas City, Mo., attorney representing the Hy-Vee customer, declined to discuss matters not addressed in the lawsuit, such as information about his client and the evolution of the case. “At this very early stage in the litigation, I'm not going to address those questions,” Guastello said. “I have not authorized my client to make a statement.”

Label lawsuits are on the rise around the country, mostly against food manufacturers. Nestle USA and juice maker Welch Foods, for example, are currently defending lawsuits seeking class-action status that object to wording on labels indicating “all natural” ingredients.

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