Riviana Foods Inc. and New World Pasta Company—which do business as Ronzoni—are facing a class action suit that alleges they illegally “slack filled” boxes of some of their specialty pasta products.
According to the complaint, the defendants sell their specialty products, including gluten-free pasta, in the same type of box as their regular pasta. This is despite the fact that the specialty items contain significantly less pasta—up to 25 percent less—per box. The case therefore alleges these boxes of Ronzoni specialty pastas are filled with non-functional amounts of “slack fill,” i.e. empty space inside product packaging that the plaintiff argues is illegal under both California and federal consumer protection law.
“Defendants’ specialty pasta products are sold in packaging, namely boxes, that are substantially under-filled and contain substantial amounts of unnecessary empty space, i.e. non-functional slack-fill,” the lawsuit states. “Indeed, identically sized boxes of Defendants’ traditional pasta products, with the same size noodles, contain one-third more pasta than Defendants’ specialty pasta products, thus confirming that the empty space in the box is not necessary.”
According to the lawsuit, the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act prohibits “non-functional slack fill,” which the agency defines as empty space that serves no specific purpose, such as protecting the product during shipping. The case contends that the empty space in Ronzoni specialty pasta boxes serves no particular purpose and actually increases the likelihood the product will be damaged during shipping.
Another sticking point in the suit is that boxes of Ronzoni pasta contain a plastic window through which the product can be viewed. The complaint argues that this window is intentionally placed at the bottom of the products’ boxes so the pasta will fill the window and create the illusion that the box is full. The suit claims that this is an unfair business practice and a violation of the Food and Drug Cosmetic Act.
The suit proposes to cover the following two classes:
A class under the California Unfair Competition Law of everyone in California who bought Ronzoni’s “Garden Delight,” “Gluten Free” “Smart Taste” or “Super Greens” pastas from July 12, 2015 until class certification AND
A class under the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act of everyone in California who bought Ronzoni’s “Garden Delight,” “Gluten Free,” “Smart Taste,” or “Super Greens” pastas from July 12, 2016 until class certification
The lawsuit, originally filed in Orange County Superior Court, has been removed to the United States District Court for the Central District of California