A Georgia vegan has filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Burger King over the fast food chain’s allegedly “false and misleading” practice of grilling its meat-free Impossible Whoppers on the same grills it uses to cook traditional meat products.
The plaintiff argues in the 13-page case that consumers would not have paid a premium price for Burger King’s popular plant-based burger had they known the Impossible Whopper comes into contact with and is effectively contaminated by meat by-products.
“0% Beef, 100% Whopper”
Miami-headquartered Burger King effectively disrupted the fast food ecosystem—and welcomed into the fold swathes of paying vegan customers—when it introduced the “Impossible” Whopper, a plant-based, meat-free, synthetic alternative to traditional meat patties, at select locations in August 2019. Manufactured and distributed by non-party Impossible Foods Inc., the “0% beef” Impossible Whopper almost instantly separated itself from other vegan meat substitutes due to what the lawsuit describes as its “impressive” meat-like appearance, texture and taste, not to mention its protein content and nutritional benefits.
Unbeknownst to consumers vegan and non-vegan alike, however, Burger King does not use a separate vegan-friendly grill to cook Impossible Whoppers, the lawsuit claims. The plaintiff, who the suit says practices a strict vegan diet and consumes nothing that contains animal by-products, alleges that Burger King cooks the Impossible Whopper on the same grills as its traditional meat-based products, thereby covering the meat-free patty with meat by-product.
The case argues that consumers pay Burger King a premium price for the vegan product on the sole basis that it is a meat-free option, and reasonably believe based on the defendant’s representations that the Impossible Whopper is “prepared in a manner that maintained its qualities as a vegan (meat-free) burger patty.” The plaintiff argues that had consumers known the truth about how Burger King prepared the Impossible Whopper, they never would have bought the product.
Case Claims Consumers ‘Duped’ by Lack of Disclosure
A sticking point in the complaint is that Burger King, according to the plaintiff, makes no disclosures on its in-store or drive-thru menus that inform consumers prior to purchase that the Impossible Whopper is cooked in a manner that could cause it to be contaminated with meat by-product. Strict vegans such as the plaintiff, the lawsuit argues, legitimately believed they were paying Burger King for a premium meat-free alternative. Essentially, an Impossible patty covered in meat by-product is in no way meat-free, according to the suit.
“Plaintiff, like the other members of the Class, reasonably believed that the Impossible Whopper was in fact ‘0% beef’ and, therefore, did not contain any meat or meat by-products,” the lawsuit reads. “Plaintiff would not have purchased the Impossible Whopper if he knew that it was cooked in such a manner that it was coated in meat by-products.”
Who’s covered by this lawsuit?
The case looks to cover consumers across the United States who bought Burger King’s Impossible Whopper and asks the court to injunctively order the company to plainly disclose that the Impossible Whopper is cooked on the same grill as other meat.
The lawsuit alleges violations of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.