Westsoy Organic Plus Vanilla Soymilk is the subject of a proposed class action lawsuit in which two consumers claim the product’s front label and ingredient list misleadingly fail to disclose the presence of artificial flavors and added sugar.
Filed against The Hain Celestial Group, Inc., the 19-page lawsuit out of New York argues consumers are misled by representations on the front of Westsoy soymilk’s packaging, which includes the terms “Vanilla,” “Organic Plus,” and “Soymilk”; a statement that the drink is “American Heart Association Certified”; and says the soymilk is made “With Vitamins A, E & D & Calcium.”
According to the case, the defendant’s use of the word “Vanilla” without any qualifying terms—i.e. “flavored,” “naturally flavored,” “artificial flavors,” or “with other natural flavors”—communicates to consumers that the product’s flavoring and vanilla taste are derived exclusively from real vanilla beans.
In truth, consumers are given the false impression that Hain Celestial’s Westsoy product is flavored naturally given the statements on the product’s front label and that the milk’s ingredients list denotes “vanilla with other natural flavors,” the lawsuit alleges.
“The representations are misleading because the front label and ingredients list fail to disclose artificial flavors and the ingredients list conceals the addition of sugar through misleading terms,” the complaint reads.
The presence of an “other natural flavor” that “simulates, resembles or reinforces the characterizing flavor” must be disclosed on a product’s front label in accordance with food labeling regulations, the case argues. Nevertheless, Westsoy soymilk’s front label includes no mention of the presence of vanillin, an artificial flavor, and instead designates such as part of the “natural flavors” in the product’s ingredients list, according to the lawsuit, claiming this can make it difficult for consumers to learn what’s really in their food.
“A reasonable consumer cannot follow up or learn the truth that the Product contains non-vanilla artificial vanillin from reading the Product’s ingredient list because defendant labels this incorrectly and deceptively as ‘Other Natural Flavor’ as opposed to ‘Artificial Flavor,’” the complaint states.
The lawsuit goes on to allege the defendant inclusion of “evaporated cane juice” in Westsoy soymilk’s ingredients list is a more elaborate way to avoid mentioning the product contains sugar. According to the case, a reasonable consumer expects an ingredient that contains the term “juice” to be derived from a fruit or vegetable. The “evaporated cane juice” included in the defendant’s soymilk, however, “has little in common with the types of juices that Americans consume,” the lawsuit argues, noting that the term is “just another name” for sugar.
“By hiding ‘sugar’ through a term which fails to truthfully and non-deceptively describe the source, function and qualities of the ingredient, reasonable consumers are deceived into purchasing a product with a greater amount of added sugar,” the suit states, adding that the defendant’s apparent deception is especially egregious given soymilk is marketed toward health-conscious consumers.
According to the lawsuit, the representations on Westsoy soymilk’s packaging are “designed to—and do—deceive, mislead, and defraud plaintiff and consumers.” The case claims consumers would not have purchased the product or would have paid less for the soymilk had they known the truth about the beverage’s ingredients.
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