Mrs. Fields Cookies, Inc. has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that advertising and promotional materials touting a cookie line as "low fat" were false and misleading for two of the cookies in the line. To settle the FTC charges, Mrs. Fields has agreed not to misrepresent the amount of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol or calories in any bakery food products.
Mrs. Fields Cookies, Inc., based in Salt Lake City, Utah, is the U.S. market leader in the fresh-baked cookie industry, with more than 600 bakeries nationwide.
"Millions of consumers care about the fat content of their food," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Some people are concerned for physical fitness reasons, but many people shop for low fat foods for health reasons," she said. "While the challenged campaign was limited in scope and duration, the low fat misrepresentations are clear and raise the same concerns as other deceptive nutrition claims challenged by the FTC in recent years."
Mrs. Fields introduced three new cookie varieties -- "Chocolite," "Apple Cobbler," and "Semi-sweet Classic" -- advertising and promoting them as "our new line of LOW FAT Cookies," according to the FTC complaint detailing the charges. In fact, according to the complaint, two of the cookies, the "Chocolite" and the "Semi-Sweet Classic," contained 5.5 grams of fat -- an amount that exceeds the 3 or fewer grams of fat per serving that qualifies as "low fat" under Food and Drug Administration regulations. Thus, the claim that this was a new line of "low fat" cookies was false and misleading, according to the complaint.
To settle the FTC's charges, a proposed consent agreement announced today for public comment would prohibit Mrs. Fields from misrepresenting the fat, saturated fat, cholesterol or calorie content of baked food products. The proposed settlement would not prohibit Mrs. Fields from making representations that are specifically permitted in FDA labeling regulations.
The Commission vote to place the proposed consent agreement on the public record for comment was 5-0. It will be published in the Federal Register and subject to public comment for 60 days, after which the Commission will decide whether to make its provisions final. Comments should be addressed to: FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $10,000.
The FTC has prepared a fact sheet, "Food Advertising Claims," which is distributed free to consumers. Copies of the complaint, consent agreement, an analysis to aid public comment and the "Food Advertising Claims" fact sheet, are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web site at: http://www.ftc.gov
(FTC File No. 952 3014)