A proposed class action claims that the front label of Albertsons’ Lucerne-brand pasteurized processed gouda cheese product unlawfully fails to reveal that the item’s smoked taste comes from added smoke flavoring, not real smoke exposure.
The 18-page case alleges the gouda is misleadingly labeled as “[s]moked” given that the product is not exposed to smoke but instead enhanced by liquid smoke flavor prepared by advanced chemistry and synthetic additives.
Per the complaint, Albertsons Companies has run afoul of federal and state labeling regulations by failing to disclose the source of the gouda’s main flavor on the front label. The filing asserts that to comply with these regulations, the product’s front label should read “with added smoke flavor,” “[with] natural smoke flavor,” or “flavor added,” since its characterizing flavor is derived from liquid smoke.
Instead, Albertsons Companies hides the disclosure about the smoke flavor additive in the back label ingredients list, the complaint relays.
According to the case, the absence of these required terms from the front label is likely to mislead consumers since the product appears identical to varieties of gouda cheese that get their flavor from actually being smoked, “even though they are not equal in quality.”
The complaint also contend that Albertsons Companies further misrepresents its product by using annatto color, which gives it a darker hue that consumers associate with smoked cheese products.
Albertsons’ alleged misconduct allows it to sell the Lucerne gouda cheese product at a higher price, especially since consumer trends show that buyers are “increasingly seeking foods that get their taste only from a characterizing ingredient or a natural processing method,” the case argues. Likewise, cheese industry experts have observed that “smoked cheeses are on the rise.”
The lawsuit looks to represent anyone in Maryland, Alaska, Arizona, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota and Wyoming who purchased Lucerne pasteurized processed Gouda cheese during the applicable statute of limitations period.
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