Airheads Gummies Not as ‘Tree Nut Free’ as Advertised, Class Action Says
Spearman Ruff v. Perfetti Van Melle USA, Inc.
Filed: May 24, 2023 ◆§ 2:23-cv-00070-DLB-CJS
A class action lawsuit claims Perfetti Van Melle USA, Inc. has misled consumers by labeling its Airheads Gummies as “tree nut free” when the candy, in fact, contains the tree nut ingredient coconut oil.
A proposed class action lawsuit claims Perfetti Van Melle USA, Inc. has misled consumers by labeling its Airheads Gummies as “tree nut free” when the candy, in fact, contains the tree nut ingredient coconut oil.
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The 19-page lawsuit says that the Kentucky-based company has run afoul of federal and state laws by prominently labeling the popular candy with a “bold logo” that assures that the product is “peanut free” and “tree nut free.” However, the ingredients list on the back label indicates that the Airheads gummies contain coconut oil, an allergen the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers a tree nut, the suit relays.
According to the case, manufacturers such as Perfetti are required to adhere to federal labeling standards when a food product contains a major allergen, such as tree nuts. As the complaint tells it, consumers rely on the “tree nut free” label as a “quick reference” to assure them that the product does not contain the allergen without having to study the complete ingredients list.
The gummies’ packaging falsely leads shoppers to believe that the product is indeed free of tree nuts, the filing alleges.
“Through these unfair and deceptive practices, [Perfetti] has collected millions of dollars from the sale of its [products] that it would not have otherwise earned,” the lawsuit charges.
Per the suit, up to 3.3 million people nationwide are allergic to tree nuts, and misrepresentations on food products’ packaging pose serious risks for consumers.
In May of this year, the plaintiff, a Mississippi resident, purchased Airheads Gummies with her 12-year-old son, who is “allergic to many substances, including tree nuts,” and thus is accustomed to reading product labels carefully, the case shares. The consumer and her son saw the “tree nut free” claim on the product’s label and reasonably assumed that the candy did not contain the allergen, the complaint says.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff’s son became sick and experienced difficulty breathing after eating the Airheads gummies, and the boy was referred to an otolaryngologist the next day. The suit says the plaintiff’s son was advised to “stay away from products such as Airheads Gummies that contain coconut oil, despite the labeling stating that the candy is tree nut free.”
The case argues that had the plaintiff and her son known that the candy was misrepresented as “tree nut free,” they would not have bought it, and the boy would not have suffered the “fear, emotional distress, allergy symptoms, and physical discomfort” that he experienced after eating the Airheads Gummies.
The lawsuit looks to represent anyone in the United States who purchased Airheads Gummies during the applicable statute of limitations period.
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