A proposed class action alleges Whole Foods has misled consumers by representing that its private label brioche hamburger buns are made exclusively or at least predominantly with “whole grain” flour.
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The 14-page lawsuit says that despite the unmistakable “whole grain” claim on the front label of Whole Foods Market Brioche Whole Grain hamburger buns, the product’s back panel lists “enriched wheat flour”—a common substitute for whole-grain wheat flour—as the primary ingredient.
The suit argues that the small amount of fiber listed in the nutrition facts—only four grams per serving—evidences the negligible level of highly fibrous “whole wheat flour” contained in the product.
Whole-grain food products incorporate the entire grain seed and come packed with nutrients and vitamins, the case relays. Many “refined grains,” which through processing lose the nutrients that whole grains contain, undergo an enrichment process to add back some of these key vitamins, the complaint shares.
Per the filing, however, this “enriched flour”—like the kind primarily used in Whole Foods-brand hamburger buns—still “fails to add most of the nutrients found in whole wheat—including its fiber content.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stipulates that the grocer’s product should be labeled as “enriched buns” because they are made with “enriched flour,” the lawsuit contests. The suit also argues that it is a violation of FDA regulations to promote whole grain as an ingredient in the buns without mentioning “enriched flour”—the far more prominent component.
In addition, according to the Whole Grains Council, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, “whole grain” claims should be made only in regard to food products that contain more whole grain than refined grain, the case states.
As the complaint tells it, demand for whole-grain food products has “skyrocketed as people have become increasingly health conscious,” and Whole Foods has aimed to capitalize on this trend by misrepresenting its hamburger buns as made mostly with nutrient-rich whole grains.
“As a result of its deceptive conduct, [Whole Foods] is, and continues to be, unjustly enriched at the expense of [its] consumers,” the filing contends.
The plaintiff, a New York resident, paid a premium price for the product in May 2022 thanks to the misleading “whole grain” representation, the suit claims. According to the case, the woman would not have paid as much for the buns, or purchased them at all, had she known they were not made primarily with whole-grain wheat flour as advertised.
The lawsuit looks to represent anyone in the United States who purchased Whole Foods Market Brioche Whole Grain hamburger buns primarily for personal use and not for resale.
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