By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) - Quaker Oats Co has been accused in a new lawsuit of fraudulently misleading consumers into believing its Maple & Brown Sugar instant oatmeal contains real maple syrup.
In a complaint filed on Tuesday in Los Angeles federal court, Darren Eisenlord said Quaker Oats causes confusion by including a glass pitcher of maple syrup and the words "maple sugar" on packaging for six instant oatmeal products.
Real maple syrup and maple sugar are "premium ingredients," Eisenlord said, and the PepsiCo Inc unit knows that shoppers would pay more for oatmeal containing them.
He seeks class-action status for shoppers nationwide and in California who, like him, in the last four years bought the "classic" version of the oatmeal, or any of the organic, high-fiber, gluten-free, low-sugar and "weight control" versions.
The lawsuit seeks damages as well as new packaging.
Quaker Oats did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
The lawsuit followed a Feb. 15 letter from the North American Maple Syrup Council, the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers' Association and other trade groups urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to crack down on food companies whose labels incorrectly suggest the presence of maple syrup.
These groups say "maple" is understood to refer to "maple syrup," much as "mayo" is understood to refer to "mayonnaise." They pointed to an FDA warning letter last August to the maker of "Just Mayo," which unlike mayonnaise contained no eggs.
The case is Eisenlord v Quaker Oats Co et al, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 16-01442.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)