Black raspberry-flavored Kirkland Signature sparkling water is misleadingly labeled in that buyers are given a false impression of the amount/quantity/type of flavoring in the product, a class action claims.
Costco’s black raspberry-flavored Kirkland Signature sparkling water is misleadingly labeled in that consumers are given a false impression of the relative amount, quantity and type of flavoring ingredients in the product, a proposed class action claims.
The 16-page lawsuit contends Costco’s labeling of the Kirkland Signature sparkling water, which displays the words “Sparkling Black Raspberry Flavor,” “Carbonated Flavored Water” and images of two ripe black raspberries, is deceptive to buyers in that it leads them to expect the product’s flavor to be derived from black raspberries. The absence of a statement such as “Artificially Flavored” from the bottle’s label is understood by consumers to be “equivalent to the Product’s characterizing flavor not being supplied from artificial flavors,” the lawsuit, filed on September 3 in Illinois, argues.
According to the suit, however, the sparkling water product does not contain as much black raspberry as consumers expect and instead derives its flavor from an undisclosed artificial ingredient.
“Despite the prominent pictures of black raspberries, the dark red coloring of the liquid and promises of ‘Black Raspberry Flavor,’ the Product lacks an appreciable amount of black raspberry ingredients,” the case says.
Per the suit, consumers have increasingly tried to avoid artificial flavors as synthetic ingredients are associated with adverse health effects. Consumers prefer foods and beverages to derive their flavor from real ingredients instead of added flavors because the latter are perceived as less natural, more processed and loaded with additives and solvents, even when labeled as “natural flavors,” the case relays.
According to the lawsuit, state and federal regulations require Costco to label the Kirkland Signature sparkling water in a manner that discloses the source of its characterizing black raspberry flavor and whether it comes from real black raspberries, is extracted from black raspberries, or sourced artificially. The case claims the Kirkland Signature sparkling water contains an “undisclosed artificial flavor” in the form of DL-malic acid, which is commercially made and lends the beverage a tart and fruity taste, per the suit.
The complaint argues Costco could have used natural L-malic acid in the product, or a natural version of citric acid, yet used DL-malic acid “because it was likely cheaper or more accurately resembled natural flavors.”
In any event, the suit contends, the Kirkland Signature sparkling water is misleadingly labeled given the terms “Artificially Flavored” do not appear on the package.
“Consumers are misled to expect the taste comes exclusively and/or predominantly from black raspberries and/or natural sources other than black raspberries,” the case claims. “Consumers are unable to learn the malic acid listed in the ingredients is the artificial version without a chemistry kit.”
Although the sparkling water’s “natural flavors” component may contain some flavor compounds from black raspberries, it also contains some from fruits other than black raspberries, the lawsuit continues. These flavor compounds, according to the suit, are cheaper than using only black raspberries and more concentrated, meaning less real black raspberry needs to be used.
The case says that although the product’s label attempts to disclaim the presence of black raspberry ingredients through statements such as “Zero Calories” and “Carbonated Flavored Water,” the beverage’s reddish color is inconsistent with a lack of calories. The suit alleges Costco has added the colorings red 40 and blue 1 to the product “[t]o give consumers the false impression that the product contains a greater absolute and relative amount of black raspberry ingredients than it does.” Moreover, red 40 and blue 1 must be disclosed in a product’s ingredients list, the lawsuit says, yet are not revealed as ingredients in the Kirkland Signature black raspberry sparkling water.
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