Badia Spices faces a proposed class action that alleges the company’s “New Mexico Chili” peppers are essentially misbranded given that the product is grown in Mexico, not New Mexico.
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Per the 11-page case, the fact that the Badia “New Mexico Chili” peppers originate in Mexico is disclosed only on the company’s website, meaning consumers who view the product’s packaging would be unable to identify the actual country of origin.
“New Mexico Chili is deceptively misdescriptive as a name because the Product is not grown in New Mexico,” the suit summarizes.
The lawsuit contends that “New Mexico Chili” has not been used long enough or exclusively by Badia such that consumers generally understand it to refer to a product from a particular manufacturer or distributor. Further, “New Mexico Chili” is not an “arbitrary or fanciful” name that consumers would generally understand does not refer to a particular geographic origin, like a “moon pie” for instance, the filing argues.
“New Mexico Chili is not a name whose market significance is generally understood by the consumer to connote a particular class, kind, type, or style of chili rather than to indicate geographical origin, because New Mexico chili refers to a specific type of chili pepper grown only in New Mexico.”
The case stresses that a product whose name incorporates a geographic place is for consumers an indicator of quality. New Mexico chilis thrive in the state’s high altitudes, desert climate and rocky, mineral-rich soil, and the distinct flavors are “unlike chili peppers grown anywhere else in the world,” the suit says, noting that New Mexico chili is a “key industry” in the state.
According to the filing, the past 30 years have seen the number of acres in New Mexico devoted to growing chilis drop by more than 70 percent, and the product is threatened not only by global warming-caused droughts but by lower prices on imports from China, India and Mexico, the case adds.
The lawsuit looks to cover all persons in New York, North Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Alaska, and West Virginia who bought Badia “New Mexico Chili” peppers within the applicable statute of limitations period.
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