CHICAGO — General Mills, Inc. and The Kellogg Co. have been targeted in a class action lawsuit calling into question the make-up and promotion of fiber in the companies’ products.

According to the complaint filed Nov. 9 in the U.S. District Court for the Northeastern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, Minneapolis-based General Mills, through its Fiber One brand, and Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg, through its Fiber Plus brand, fail to accurately disclose to consumers on the packaging that the products contain non-natural fiber, which the suit claims "has not been shown by current scientific evidence to possess all of the health benefits of natural fiber."

Instead, both companies advertise their bars as having 35% daily value of fiber, and for both companies the primary ingredient is chicory root, which the complaint points out is primarily inulin, a non-natural fiber.

"Inulin is a carbohydrate," the lawsuit states. "Since inulin is not absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, it is considered to be a kind of fiber. Inulin, however, has not been shown by current scientific evidence to possess all of the same healthful benefits of natural fibers. Furthermore, the Web MD web site warns that using too much inulin causes stomach problems and that women who are pregnant or breast feeding should not use inulin. (Kellogg and General Mills do not) inform consumers of such problems."

Reached by Milling & Baking News, spokespersons for both Kellogg and General Mills said they were unable to comment on pending litigation, but General Mills did provide the following comment on fiber:

"Inulin is a natural fiber that is naturally present in many grains, vegetables and fruits, including wheat, onions, leeks, bananas, garlic and chicory root. Clinical studies have demonstrated that inulin, a natural fiber, promotes laxation and thereby affects regularity and has well documented health benefits — and it is natural. The Institute of Medicine includes inulin in its definition of fiber.

"Scientific evidence supports a wide variety of fibers, including inulin, as promoting regularity, or laxation. The science also supports the assertion that fiber, including inulin, can ‘help keep your digestive system on track.’"