Almost a month after being hit with a class action over its practice of labeling certain varieties of Breyers as“light ice cream” and “low-fat ice cream,”Unilever United States, Inc. now faces another proposed class action centered on the cold confection.
The latest lawsuit comes from four named plaintiffs who allege vanilla varieties of Breyers ice cream, despite how they’re labeled and advertised, do not contain real vanilla extract nor vanilla flavor derived from vanilla beans. Instead, the ingredients lists of the Breyers products in question list “natural flavor,” which the case says Unilever apparently uses as a synonym for vanilla flavor or vanilla extract. As the lawsuit tells it, however, the “natural flavor” in Breyers stems from “vanillin,” which is produced from non-vanilla bean components and should more accurately be designated as an artificial flavor.
“In a vanilla ice cream product, it is misleading to label ingredients which simulate and reinforce and extend vanilla as a ‘natural flavor’ because it implies that the flavor is derived from vanilla beans, whose flavor it simulates,” the complaint reads.
The “natural flavors” catch-all is given particular attention in the lawsuit, which argues that even when a vanillin ingredient is produced through a natural fermentation process, it would be more accurate to label the ingredient as “vanillin derived naturally through fermentation.” Further, the suit says that “natural flavors” more fully refers to the food industry phrase “vanilla with other natural flavors.” Claiming or implying that a vanilla-flavored product is derived from vanilla beans when it more accurately contains “vanilla with other natural flavors” is deceptive and misleading, the lawsuit stresses, because “it means the product contains an insufficient amount of vanilla extract or flavor.”
“In reality, the natural flavor which stimulates and reinforces and extends vanilla here likely is a form of wood pulp or coal tar derivative,” according to the lawsuit.