The problem with Muscle Milk is that it tastes really good (applies more to the carton version than the powdered version). Sure, it's a satisfying reward after a tough workout, possibly instilling a kind of Pavlovian mechanism that increases the desire to hit the weights. But more than that, it tastes so good that sometimes you just want to skip the workout and go straight to the shake.
The suit, filed in San Francisco this week, charges Cytosport with violating the state's consumer protections, false advertising, and unfair competition laws. However, a federal judge, while agreeing with some of the suit's points, ruled this week that the complaint needs more details and evidence before the moving forward.
The plaintiff, Claire Delacruz, argues that terms on the drinks package, such as "healthy fats" and "good carbohydrates" are false and misleading, according to court documents. She says that, because of the allegedly misleading advertising, she purchased Muscle Milk instead of "competitor products, which are less expensive or contain healthier ingredients."
"Cytosport makes representations and omissions that are intended to mislead consumers to believe that the products are healthy, and nutritious, and should be regularly consumed to help them diet and live a healthy lifestyle," her complaint states. "[W]ith almost 50 percent of their caloric content coming from fats, the products are equivalent to fat-laden junk food."
The suit notes that Cytosport's advertising instructs consumers to use Muscle Milk "multiple times a day, including '1.5 to 2 hours prior to training,' '30 to 45 minutes after workouts,' as a 'meal replacement' and 'in between meals as a protein-enhanced snack,' and even 'in conjunction with meals.'"
Because Muscle Milk is classified as a dietary supplement, it does not need FDA approval nor is it required to list the nutritional facts. But the packaging, the complaint argues, leads consumers to believe that the shake has only unsaturated fats and is free of saturated fat.
Judge Claudia Wilken agreed that it may be misleading.
The term "healthy fats," she wrote in the ruling, "is more specific than simply that the product is healthy. As between saturated and unsaturated fats, the latter is the healthy fat. A reasonable consumer would be likely to believe that the drink contains unsaturated, not saturated, fats."
But, Wilken ruled, it is hard to quantify what "healthy" means exactly, and Delacruz has not provided sufficient, objective evidence showing that Muscle Milk contains an unhealthy amount of fat. As such, she has not proved that the nutrition claims are non-factual.
The judge tentatively dismissed the suit, but is giving the plaintiff a week to polish up her case.
Hat tip to Courthouse News Service.