French fries are not exclusively made in France, nor did they originate there. Mongolian barbecue isn’t Mongolian, and English muffins aren’t always imported from, much less made, in England. The point is that names of certain food items and products can be misleading, and no one deserves to be tricked by faulty or deceptive product labeling. Yes, consumers need to be protected from false advertising, but the legal system also needs to be protected from nuisance consumer protection lawsuits.
Pennsylvania-made chocolates can taste just as premium as ones made in Belgium
In January 2019, Steve Hesse from New York and Adam Buxbaum from California filed a false advertising lawsuit against Godiva Chocolatier Inc. They accused Godiva of misleading consumers by putting “Belgium 1926” on their products’ packaging. The chocolate lovers were upset when they found out that the premium pralines they bought were made in Pennsylvania and not Belgium.
Plenty of similar consumer cases could easily be dismissed, but the New York federal court didn’t dismiss this one outright. The court rejected the chocolate maker’s defense that any reasonable consumer would realize that the “Belgian 1926” imprinted on Godiva wrappers is nothing more than a reminder of where and when the company was founded.
More than a year after the suit was filed, Godiva agreed to a settlement; they are to pay up to $15 million to around 18 million consumers who submit claim forms.
In July 2019, a man in Virginia also filed suit against Godiva and sought $75,000 in damages for a similar allegation. This case was dismissed.
There’s a reasonable explanation for Godiva’s labeling choice. The company that manufactured the first Godiva chocolates in 1926 was founded in Belgium. Since then, the world-famous confectioner had to distribute manufacturing facilities globally, including the US. They reached America and the rest of the world precisely because they produce fine-tasting chocolates produced with “Belgian craftsmanship,” which means they can be produced elsewhere yet retain the quality they’re known for.
Godiva chocolates made in Pennsylvania may not carry the prestige of Belgium-made ones, but it is reasonable to expect that they can be just as delicious.
Stickler sues Nestlé for sourcing spring water from several springs
Spring water aficionado Connie Chong was more than a little miffed when she found out that the spring water she bought was not sourced from a specific mountain — the one she believed is indicated on the bottle’s label.
She filed a class-action lawsuit against Nestlé for allegedly mislabeling its Arrowhead spring water products. Per her lawsuit, the label on Nestlé’s Arrowhead bottled water is misleading consumers into thinking that the water contained therein is sourced from a certain mountain called Arrowhead.
Here are some facts about the case:
- Arrowhead spring water is sourced from various mountain springs, and it says so on the product’s label.
- Arrowhead is a brand name that Nestlé has a right to use.
- An Arrowhead Mountain does exist, in real life and the TV show Game of Thrones.
Not a fact:
- That a reasonable consumer would be misled into thinking Arrowhead spring water was sourced only from Arrowhead Mountain and Arrowhead Mountain only.
The California court eventually dismissed the case. Ultimately, there’s just no reason for anyone to want to drink spring water from one particular spring. That is just discriminatory toward spring water from other mountain springs.
Dairy butter purists claim vegan butter is not butter
Meanwhile, some people were not happy that Miyoko’s Kitchen’s vegan butter is called butter. In October 2018, Jennifer Brown filed a complaint in New York about the company’s branding of its Cultured Vegan Butter product. According to Ms. Brown, Miyoko’s vegan butter may pass the FDA’s standard of what constitutes margarine, but that is definitely not butter (which is generally known to be made from 80% milk fat).
The lawsuit further stated that Miyoko’s plant-based butter did not have essential nutrients typically associated with dairy or regular butter, including Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and calcium. The complaint also cited that the product’s packaging featured an image of a “golden yellow stripe” in the likeness of a pat of butter, which supposedly adds to the deception.
The plant-based foods producer defended their product by saying that their vegan butter, like many other plant-based products, nearly always comes in a package with clear wording (e.g., vegan, soy) and qualifiers (e.g., dairy-free, plant-based). The case was dismissed with prejudice.
But that was not the butter brand’s only battle. Recently, Miyoko’s Kitchen won another legal battle concerning its supposed misuse of terms related to dairy to describe its plant-based products.
In 2019, the California Department of Food and Agriculture attempted to block Miyoko’s use of terms related to dairy to describe the company’s plant-based products, including “lactose-free,” and “hormone-free,” and “cruelty-free.” The company then filed a First Amendment lawsuit and won. The company is finally lawsuit-free, at least for now.
If you need experienced and dedicated attorneys for your personal injury case in Washington State, Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams is the name to call. Call our law offices in Renton 206-432-4163.