Katie Simpson bought frozen pizzas about five times in the past year, and filed a $5-million lawsuit after learning they contained trans fat—an ingredient linked to heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
In a class-action lawsuit against Nestle—the maker of DiGiorno, Stouffer’s and California Pizza Kitchen frozen pizzas—she claims the company is “placing profits over public health” by failing to remove the ingredient.
The case was filed in U.S. District Court in San Diego on behalf of Simpson, a mother of two young children.
The lawsuit says the frozen pizzas in question shouldn’t contain a toxic food additive banned all over the world, said her attorney Greg Weston.
California has banned trans fat in foods served in local restaurants, but no bans exist for packaged foods.
Weston said the suit seeks all monies Nestle has ever made from frozen pizzas.
In a statement, Nestle vowed to vigorously defend itself against “baseless allegations,’’ noting its pizzas are in strict compliance with FDA and USDA regulations.
According to California Pizza Kitchen, the case applies only to its frozen pizzas, not to restaurants bearing that name.
No hearing date has been set in the case.
“Although there are safe, low-cost and commercially acceptable alternatives to trans fat, including those used in competing brands and even in a few Nestle and CPK products, defendants unfairly elect not to use those substitutes in the Nestle Trans Fat Pizzas in order to increase profit at the expense of consumer health,” says the 23-page suit.
The suit targets partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, or PHVO, which it says is the main source of trans fat in the American diet and “used in dangerous quantities in the Nestle Trans Fat Pizzas.”
PHVO, invented in 1901 and patented in 1902 by a German chemist, was initially a “wonder product” attractive to the packaged food industry “because it combines the low cost of unsaturated … fat with the flexibility and long shelf life of saturated fat,” the suit says.
“Given its toxic properties, few food companies continue to use PHVO,” the suit says. “Defendants, however, have decided not to follow their more responsible peers and cease using PHVO, instead placing profits over public health and deliberately poisoning their consumers.”
The suit cites research that PHVO causes cardiovascular heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and accelerates cognitive decline in diabetics.
In 2008, California became the first state to ban all restaurant food with artificial trans fat, a law affecting about 88,000 eating establishments, the suit said.
“Trans fats now may not be served in California’s schools or restaurants in an amount greater than half a gram per serving,” the suit says.
—City News Service contributed to this report.