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Truvia maker settles Hawaii-based suit for $6.1M

HONOLULU (AP) — The maker of Truvia Natural Sweetener will pay $6.1 million to settle a class-action lawsuit initiated by a Hawaii woman.

Kailua-Kona resident Denise Howerton was the first to sue Cargill, which manufactures the product sold nationwide. Her lawsuit filed last year said the company made misleading statements about Truvia being a natural sweetener.

According to the lawsuit, Truvia is marketed as a natural sugar substitute primarily made from the stevia plant. But the plant makes up only 1 percent of Truvia, the suit said.

Howerton and the four others in Florida, Minnesota and California who filed similar lawsuits will receive $2,000 each from the settlement. Howerton’s attorney Lawrence Cohn said Friday the remainder will go to attorneys’ fees and to those who bought the product between July 2008 and July 2014.

The settlement approved by a federal judge in Honolulu in November says attorneys will receive $1.8 million. Class members can receive a $45 cash refund or a $90 voucher for another Truvia product, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://ow.ly/Fr1eR ).

Other settlement terms include Cargill agreeing to make changes to its labeling within 90 days and provide more information about Truvia’s ingredients.

“Those products are made from natural ingredients, and the labeling meets all applicable legal and regulatory guidelines,” a Cargill spokesman said in a statement.

Howerton bought Truvia at a Kona Walmart in March 2013 thinking it was natural, Cohn said. She discovered online that it was artificial.

“She thought it wasn’t right and wanted to do something that would be a benefit to the public,” he said.

The case was settled last week but is being appealed by a class member seeking more money from the settlement, Cohn said.