On April 11, 2021, a class action lawsuit was filed against Whole Foods in the southern borough of New York alleging that the labeling of their “Lemon Raspberry Italian Sparkling Mineral Water” was false and misleading because it contained only de minimis amounts of lemon contained and raspberry ingredient.
The label on the front of the product contained pictures of lemons and raspberries and a statement of taste “With organic flavors”, while the ingredients list contained “Organic natural flavors (raspberry, lemon)”.
The lawsuit does not directly claim that the labeling of the product violates the Federal Aroma Regulation (21 CFR 101.22), but that the aroma derived from these ingredients is only minor, since the raspberry or lemon ingredients are not listed separately in the list of ingredients as part of the natural Organic taste and does not meet the expectations of consumers for “significant amounts” of these ingredients. The complaint also cites laboratory analysis that allegedly showed the product did not contain the range of compounds that would be expected if real raspberries and lemons were used. The complaint also alleges that consumers expect raspberries and lemons to be ingested for their “nutritional purposes”, including sources of vitamin C, potassium, omega-3s and manganese.
The case was brought by Sheehan & Associates, a well-known food litigation firm that has filed hundreds of class action lawsuits, including a number of litigation related to taste labeling. Keller and Heckman will continue to monitor and report on this case and other food dispute news.
© 2021 Keller and Heckman LLPNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 103