Lawsuits Linked To Challenging Food Labels Are On The Rise
In 2018, it is certainly difficult to see if a product meets all of its (written) information on the label.
Just like you probably know that your Parmesan cheese may contain wood pulp or your tuna
may be too light on the can, you should know that lawsuits in cases related to challenging food
labels are constantly on the rise.
Over the past few months, there were several would-be class-action lawsuits, mostly driven by
the increased consumer demand for healthier food and more honest labeling. The numerous
opportunities for litigation also mean more money for lawyers, most of whom skeptic about
whether these suits are really good for the common good.
One of the latest food labeling lawsuits involves the company Kraft Heinz over the marketing of
its Parmesan cheese. According to the lawsuit, the company does not have appropriate food
Adam Hoeflich, who is a professor of practice at the Northwestern University Pritzker School of
Law, recently commented on this specific case, stating:
“I believe strongly in the rights of consumers and appropriate food labeling. What I’m skeptical
of is that this is the appropriate mechanism to determine these issues,”
Hoeflich also said that he handled many class-action lawsuits and believes for them to be
“appropriate and beneficial in certain circumstances,” mostly in civil rights cases.
However, he remains leery of those involving food labeling issues, which according to him, should be left to
the FDA and Federal Trade Commission.
Meanwhile, the lawsuits which were considered by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation
on May 26 this year included:
- Suits filed against Trader Joe’s and their grocery chain, alleging that they are underfilling
the 5-ounce cans of tuna and misleading customers
- Suits filed against Quaker Oats alleging that their customers have been misled by their
Maple & Brown Sugar oatmeal – which does not contain any maple syrup (despite the
wording and images of maple syrup on the packaging)
- Suits filed against Kraft Heinz and their misrepresentation in the marketing of their
Parmesan cheese, which is labeled “100% Grated Parmesan Cheese” despite the filler
material that is alleged to be deriving from wood chips.
There is even a book named “Salt Sugar Fat: How The Food Giants Hooked Us”, written by
Michael Moss, who said that “more people are concerned about what they are putting in their
bodies, concerned about processed foods and the things added to them.”
Moss, who is formerly an investigative reporter with The New York Times, said:
“I love it that consumer agitation can cause companies to respond without government
On the other hand, some attorneys believe that the companies contribute to the negative
perception of lawyers padding their pockets. Currently, there are a dozen other cases for false
and misleading labeling.
The truth is that people have a right to know what they are buying and that the authorities (like
the FDA) must regulate all of these claims – mostly because they are linked to the common
good of the customers throughout the country.