A Muscle Milk class action lawsuit, Clay et al. v. CytoSport Inc., was filed in January 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. The plaintiffs in that case have now asked the court to certify four different classes; a nationwide class, and a class for California, Florida and Michigan consumers. Their reasoning is that CytoSport has violated specific laws in those particular states.
Muscle Milk is a popular line of products manufactured by CytoSport. On its website, the company claims that the products are aimed at “helping athletes recover and rebuild muscle”.
The lawsuit alleges that CytoSport is guilty of false advertising. Among the allegations, plaintiffs claim that it advertises that:
- Its products contain more protein than they actually do.
- Its sub-line of products are advertised as lean, even though the products contain about the same amount of fat as other protein products.
This is not the first lawsuit that has been filed against the manufacturer of Muscle Milk. In 2010, a class action lawsuit was filed against CytoSport that alleged the company’s products, including Muscle Milk, Monster Milk, Cytomax and Mighty Milk, contained dangerous levels of heavy metals, arsenic, lead and cadmium. It was also alleged that the company did not list those ingredients on its labels in violation of California’s Proposition 65 warning requirements. CytoSport’s claimed that its products may contain the metals, but they were safe to consume. Even so, it settled the lawsuit in 2012.
In 2011, a class action lawsuit, Delacruz v. CytoSport, Inc., was filed alleging false advertising. Specifically, Muscle Milk products were advertised as containing healthy fats, when in fact, they did not. That lawsuit was settled in 2013 when Cytosport agreed to pay over $5 million to settle the case.
In addition to lawsuits, the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, issued a warning letter to CytoSport in 2011. The letter warned the company that its products were misbranded because the word milk was used when, in fact, the products contain no milk. It further stated that, even though the label contained wording that indicated the products contained no milk, they did contain milk derivatives. The claim “contains no milk” could mislead consumers with allergies to believe they were consuming a product with no milk and no milk derivatives. The letter also addressed other issues including products mislabeled as low fat, and lack of required nutritional information on the labels.
CytoSport was acquired by Hormel Foods in 2014 and new executive staff were appointed to run the company. Since that time, other than the January 2015 lawsuit, there have been no other lawsuits or FDA warnings against the company.
The lawsuits do raise questions about the safety of the products and whether they actually do what they are designed to do. Do the products simply provide a placebo effect for athletes, or do they really gain something from them that they could not gain from other protein products? On its face, it appears that the company’s claims are, at a minimum, misleading and at a maximum, damaging to consumers. It will be interesting to see the result of the latest lawsuit, although it will more than likely be settled without the company admitting any wrongdoing.