A New Jersey woman is behind a proposed class action in which she alleges Dutch Gold Honey and True Source Honey have misled shoppers into believing the former’s “buckwheat honey” is as advertised while it contains none of the antioxidants sought by consumers.
The 25-page lawsuit out of Pennsylvania district court alleges that despite label claims, buckwheat honey sold by Dutch Gold does not contain the antioxidants that consumers reportedly prize in real buckwheat honey. As the case tells it, Dutch Gold purchases honey that has been harvested prematurely, which necessitates that the honey be dried out. For this process, Dutch Gold heats the ostensible buckwheat honey to high temperatures for a period of time long enough to destroy the antioxidants found therein, the plaintiff claims.
True Source, which the case describes as a trade organization watchdog formed by members of the honey industry for the purpose of voluntarily assuring consumers that the “True Source Certified” label on honey products is accurate and that the honey is unadulterated, oversees the testing protocol with which it says members such as Dutch Gold must comply in order to obtain True Source certification, the lawsuit says. According to the case, True Source’s testing protocol would have revealed Dutch Gold “harvested the honey prematurely, heated [the product] to dry the honey out, and as a result did not contain the advertised antioxidants.”
“The True Source certification is therefore false,” the complaint reads, stressing that Dutch Gold’s claim on its website that its buckwheat honey contains “higher levels of antioxidants” than comparable honey products is false.
Moreover, the lawsuit asserts that Dutch Gold fails to disclose to consumers that its buckwheat honey has been prematurely harvested “before it is really honey.” This is material in that prematurely harvested honey is “typically watery” and effectively incomplete as far as both the bees that produce the product and the process that finishes the job before it hits shelves are concerned. From the complaint:
“Since the bees have not finished making the honey, they have not sealed the honey in its comb. Premature honey is therefore exposed to the elements and typically has been watered down by rain and dew. Dutch Gold (or its suppliers) therefore heats the honey to dry it out. But heating damages the honey; most or all of the antioxidants in buckwheat honey are lost when it is heated for a period of time.”
According to the lawsuit, Dutch Gold either knew or “recklessly failed to know” that its claims with regard to its purportedly True Source Certified buckwheat honey as a pure, unadulterated product were “incorrect and misleading.” Moreover, the company, the suit adds, knew or should have known that discovery of the misrepresentations of its buckwheat honey “would have failed to meet the reasonable expectations of consumers” who paid a premium price for the product.
“Dutch Gold's conduct and True Source's conduct, whether committed intentionally or by negligence, thereby deprived consumers such as Plaintiff and the proposed Class of the opportunity to negotiate or pay a lower price to reflect the diminished value of the Buckwheat Honey, or simply avoid buying Dutch Gold's Buckwheat Honey altogether,” the case says.
Included in the proposed class are all consumers and entities in New Jersey who made retail purchases of Dutch Gold’s buckwheat honey products.