The Kroger Co.’s Private Selection “Smoked Gouda” cheese is misleadingly labeled in that the front of the package fails to disclose that the product’s smoked flavor comes from artificial additives, a proposed class action alleges.
According to the lawsuit, reasonable consumers have been misled into paying a premium price for a product they believed to be free from flavor additives, and derived its flavor from the actual process of smoking, based on the “smoked” gouda’s labeling. Moreover, given that gouda is a relatively common product, a reasonable consumer would have no reason to “double check” the veracity of what’s stated on the cheese’s front label, according to the case.
“Reasonable consumers must and do rely on defendant to honestly disclose the source of the Product’s flavor,” the complaint states. “Defendant misrepresented the Product through affirmative statements, half-truths, and omissions.”
Smoking is a food processing method that preserves or improves the flavor of a food by exposing it to smoke, usually from burning wood, the lawsuit explains. Consumers prefer foods whose flavors are derived from their characterizing ingredient or a natural production process—such as smoking—rather than from added artificial flavors, the suit says.
The case alleges that because the Private Selection “Smoked” gouda product is labeled as having a “distinctive, smoky flavor,” reasonable consumers would expect that the cheese gets its flavor from the process of being smoked. In truth, however, the product’s ingredients list reveals that the cheese contains “smoke flavor,” which is “smoke condensed into a liquid form,” the suit relays.
Per the case, the “smoked” gouda product “has not undergone any smoking” and instead derives its taste from flavor additives. According to the suit, testing commissioned by the plaintiff’s counsel revealed that the added smoke flavor “is not able to impart the same, real smoked taste of real smoking” given it lacks “threshold amounts” of certain phenolic compounds normally present when a food is smoked.
The case argues that the Private Selection “smoked” gouda’s front label is misleading to consumers in that it fails to “say anything about the source of the smoky flavor.” The lawsuit says food labeling laws require a product’s front label to disclose the source of the product’s characterizing flavor.
The lawsuit, which echoes similar cases filed over Dietz & Watson’s “Smoked Gouda” and “Smoked Provolone” products and Aldi’s “Smoked White Cheddar” cheese, claims consumers would not have purchased Kroger’s “Smoked” gouda, or would have paid less for it, had they known the true source of the cheese’s flavor.
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