The Sacramento Business Journal turned to Charlottesville,
Benjamin Abel for insight on recent class action lawsuits alleging that labeling claims
about natural vanilla flavoring are false or misleading. Abel, who focuses
on product and consumer litigation, is a member of the firm’s food and
beverage industry team.
Oct. 3 story was based on a lawsuit against Sacramento-based Blue Diamond Growers over vanilla flavoring in its packaged foods, the latest in a series of recent
class actions alleging false or misleading claims about vanilla labeling.
Abel and McGuireWoods colleagues
R. Trent Taylor and
Eric Fleming wrote about this emerging trend in a July 31 legal alert, “New Flavor of Labeling Lawsuits: Plaintiffs Allege False Vanilla Claims.”
Abel told the Business Journal that these types of lawsuits
against food manufacturers have become commonplace. He cited a recent case
in Massachusetts in which a court dismissed claims that a honey-flavored
cereal was marketed deceptively because honey wasn’t the primary sweetener.
The court determined that “a reasonable consumer” would understand that the
“honey” on the label refers to the flavor rather than the primary
ingredient, he explained.
“Trials in the food and beverage world with a class action of this type are
exceedingly rare,” Abel said.
But all food manufacturers should be aware of these suits, he added.
“Obviously, if the suit is ultimately successful, that would have a large
impact on the way specifically vanilla would be labeled, or should be
labeled,” he said.