The front label of Trader Joe’s “Vanilla” Almond Granola cereal is misleading to buyers in that it fails to state that the product contains artificial flavors, a proposed class action alleges.
According to the suit, although the front label of the box displays the text “Vanilla Flavored With Other Natural Flavors,” the product, unbeknownst to consumers, contains synthetic vanillin, an artificial flavor buyers would not expect to be an ingredient in the Trader Joe’s cereal.
Most consumers prefer foods that do not contain artificial flavors because they believe that they’re associated with detrimental health effects and a lower nutritional value, the case reads. Trader Joe’s, the suit says, charges a premium price for its “Vanilla” almond granola cereal based on the false representation that the product’s taste is derived from natural flavors.
The suit alleges the cereal instead contains artificial vanillin, a component of vanilla extract that can also be commercially produced from non-vanilla sources, such as guaiacol (coal tar or petroleum), eugenol (clove oil), ferulic acid and lignin (tree pulp). The lawsuit claims laboratory testing commissioned by the plaintiff’s counsel has revealed that the vanillin used in the defendant’s product is not naturally sourced from vanilla beans but is instead made through artificial processes and should therefore be declared as an artificial flavor.
Per the case, the amount of vanillin detected in the almond granola cereal was “significantly greater” than the amount that would be present if the product were flavored with only vanilla extract. Moreover, the vanillin in the product unaccompanied by other aromatic compounds from the vanilla plant, indicating the cereal contained, at most, only a trace amount of real vanilla.
The lawsuit alleges that “there exists an inability” to produce vanillin from natural sources in a cost-effective way, meaning Trader Joe’s has likely used artificial vanillin in its almond granola cereal. According to the suit, Trader Joe’s has disguised the presence of artificial flavors in its cereal by referring only to “Natural Flavor” in the product’s ingredients list.
“Even if reasonable consumers were to investigate the ‘Vanilla Flavored With Other Natural Flavors’ statement on the front label by scrutinizing the ingredient list on the side, they would still be unaware that the Product contained artificial flavors,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit argues that food labeling regulations require Trader Joe’s to state on the front label that the cereal is “Artificially Flavored,” instead of “With Other Natural Flavors,” because the artificial vanillin “simulates, resembles or reinforces the characterizing flavor” of vanilla.
“’With Other Natural Flavors’ is false and misleading because the Product’s characterizing vanilla flavor is provided by artificial flavor,” the suit says.
The case claims Trader Joe’s has been able to sell more of its “Vanilla” almond granola cereal product, and at higher prices, than it would have absent the allegedly misleading labeling.
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