The company that has been pushing their pasta product as being good for diabetics and people following low-carb diets for over a decade has settled a class action lawsuit filed on July 22, 2013 to the tune of $7.9 million this week, according to a report published on Law360. People in the low-carb community rejoiced back in January 2004 during the heyday of the low-carb product explosion when Dakota Growers Pasta Co. released their brand new “healthier” version of pasta they called Dreamfields Pasta boasting that it had fewer digestible carbohydrates than regular pasta while still maintaining that familiar and enjoyable pasta mouth feel that low-carbers used to love before their carb-cutting days. The product was prominently featured on The Food Network’s popular show Unwrapped and it was a perfect match made in low-carb heaven–but, unfortunately, it was all predicated on a lie from the very beginning. The tragic demise of this deceptive product has been been in the process of unfolding since 2011.
The rumblings about the potential fraudulent nature of this product heavily marketed to people restricting their carbohydrate intake all began in May 2011 right after the Low-Carb Cruise that year when my Swedish physician friend Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt decided to test this theory of “low-carb pasta” for himself. He had read this February 2011 Diabetes Care study conducted by diabetes researcher Dr. Mary C. Gannon from the Minneapolis Veterans Administration Medical Center and the University of Minnesota that attempted to confirm the claim that there are only 5g digestible carbohydrates in the Dreamfields pasta. So she and her research team put it to the test.
Here were the results of Dr. Gannon’s blood sugar testing of Dreamfields:
When Dr. Eenfeldt tested his blood sugar after consuming Dreamfields pasta, he got similar results as Dr. Gannon:
All of this caught my attention at the time as I was already interesting in conducting n=1 tests of various “low-carb” products to see what impact they would have on my blood sugar levels. So in May 2011 I decided to put the Dreamfields pasta to the test. Here were my shocking results comparing what my blood sugar did eating regular high-carb pasta and this supposed “low-carb” pasta:
In the days that followed, I remember receiving an e-mail from the President of Dreamfields Foods Mike Crowley who wanted to do an interview on my podcast about these allegations regarding his company’s products which aired at the beginning of Episode 475 of “The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show” podcast on May 30, 2011. You can listen to the interview in its entirety in the videos listed below:
In the interview, Crowley noted that the Dreamfields pasta product was made with a patent-pending formula and unique manufacturing process that created a “matrix” within the product and prevented 31 grams of carbohydrates per serving from being digested, resulting in a glycemic index 65 percent lower than its peers. But lab tests conducted by Dr. Gannon, Dr. Eenfeldt and others comparing Dreamfields to regular pasta revealed this was just not the case. This made what Crowley had to say during my interview less than believable.
After this interview aired, a Portland, OR-based Type 2 diabetic named Deborah Krueger started doing her own independent investigation into Dreamfields and other “low-carb” scams like Julian Bakery breads (who ironically has attempted to rebrand themselves in recent years by producing a series of so-called “Paleo” breads with full-page marketing on the back cover of Paleo Magazine–but it’s hard to believe lying liars who lie about their products). Deborah has spent thousands of dollars of her own money to expose the flaws in the nutritional labeling on products like Dreamfields. My low-carb blogging friend Laura Dolson, the Low-Carb Diets Guide for About.com, has written about the concerns over the low-carb claims of Dreamfields. And a pasta insider shared his concerns with me in January 2012 about the reliability of the claims made about Dreamfields.
When last year’s class action lawsuit was filed, the jig on this “low-carb” pasta was up. Now they’re on the hook for paying out reimbursements to anyone who purchased Dreamfields pasta since February 2004. The total claims will be limited to $5 million with $2.9 million going to pay for attorney fees for the plaintiffs Joseph Mirakay, Louis Messina, Michael Elefterakis, and John Gembinski. If the full $5 million is not claimed by consuemrs, then the remaining funds will be equally distributed to the people making claims as well as a donation made to the American Diabetes Association (not ideal, but better that the money goes somewhere). The specifics of the lawsuit claim there were violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, breach of contract and breach of express and implied warranty and on behalf of various subclasses under other state consumer protection laws.
The company that makes Dreamfields decided to agree to this deal after realizing they would very likely lose badly if this went to court. As part of their settlement, the company agrees to remove all the health claims like “Healthy Carb Living” from the front packaging of their products for a period of one year. The fact that they charged over double what regular pasta costs for this “healthy” pasta was a big part of what makes this a tragic story. Sadly, there are a lot of low-carb dieters who still eat this stuff thinking it’s a good part of their diet none-the-wiser of its impact on their blood sugar and insulin levels. Of course, Dreamfields still stands behind their own research that claims this pasta is what they say it is. But that data has never been released to the public.
There are no details at this time about how to make a claim for your portion of the $5 million settlement, but I’ll post that information here as soon as it becomes available. What are your thoughts about this lawsuit settlement? Do you think it’s fair? Or is this much ado about nothing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
4-17-14 UPDATE: The preliminary class action settlement has been announced and it looks like everyone who makes a claim against Dreamfields will receive a total of $29.85 each. That comes out to roughly 167,504 claims to exhaust the full $5 million. They won’t even come close to that. It’ll likely be at most around 25,000 claims that will kick in the 50% extra for a total of about $45 for each claimant. And the remaining several million dollars will all go to the ADA. Here’s the actual wording from the preliminary settlement:
7-2-14 UPDATE: They FINALLY released a website for people who want to make a claim in this lawsuit settlement against Dreamfields Pasta. If you purchased any Dreamfields product between February 2004 and July 1, 2014, then you are entitled to file a claim for a refund. It must be filed no later than September 1, 2014. For full details, go to DreamfieldsSettlement.com.