Iowa consumer challenges Beyond Meat’s protein claims in federal court

By: - September 19, 2022 4:12 pm

Beyond Meat is facing its third class-action lawsuit over the protein content of its products. (Photos and documents from U.S. District Court filings.)

An Iowa woman is among three consumers suing the makers of Beyond Meat for what they allege are false claims about the protein content of the meat substitute.

It’s the third such lawsuit filed against the company in recent months.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, seeks class-action status and unspecified damages from Beyond Meat Inc. Named as plaintiffs are Erica Nichols Cooks of Des Moines; Richard Garcia of Denver, Colorado; and Jennifer Speer of Pensacola, Florida.

Cooks alleges she purchased Beyond Ground Beef and Beyond Sausage, as well as other Beyond Meat products, at retailers such as Target, Hy-Vee, and Walgreens throughout 2022. She alleges that although the products were more expensive than competing brands, she bought them in part because the labels promoted a specific amount of protein content. All of those representations pertaining to the protein content were false, the lawsuit claims. Garcia’s and Speer’s allegations are of a similar nature.

The lawsuit claims that Beyond Meat’s claims of protein content are inflated due to its deviation from the accepted, government-approved method of calculating protein and each product’s “daily value,” which reflects each product’s percentage of the recommended daily intake of protein.

The federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act requires food manufacturers to use a specific set of calculations intended to show the amount of digestible protein in a product.  Beyond Meat allegedly uses a different method of calculating protein, called the “Nitrogen Content Method.” While FDA rules allow that, they also require a different set of calculations in arriving at a daily value percentage. According to the lawsuit, Beyond Meat does not adhere to those government-imposed industry standards and, as a result, its product labels do not reflect their actual protein content.

As one example, the lawsuit states that while Beyond Beef’s Sausage Plant-Based Dinner Links claims to provide 16 grams of protein per serving and 25% of the daily value for protein, the links actually have 13 grams of protein and only 5% of the daily value.

“Simply put,” the lawsuit states, Beyond Meat’s product labels “are a farce. Defendant knowingly prepared the material on their website and product labels to misrepresent the true protein amount.”

The lawsuit alleges violations of various state consumer-fraud laws, as well as violations of the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which provides consumers with a legal cause of action for breach of warranty. The lawsuit also alleges unjust enrichment.

It is at least the third class-action lawsuit to be levied against Beyond Meat this year – the others having been filed in Illinois and California. The California lawsuit takes issue not only with Beyond Meat’s protein claims, but with the company’s claim of “all natural” ingredients, pointing to the use of methylcellulose, which the lawsuit claims is synthetic.

Beyond Meat has said the allegations of falsely stated protein levels “are unfounded and not representative of Beyond Meat’s products,” and indicated it will “vigorously fight” such allegations.

In the Iowa case, the court has yet to rule on the plaintiffs’ request for class action status and Beyond Meats has not filed a formal response to the lawsuit.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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