Lawsuits against food manufacturers have been in the news constantly over the last few years. Manufacturers have removed “All Natural” claims from their labels more than a few times because of disgruntled consumers discovering that those claims really weren’t the truth. FoodFacts.com has always felt that the voices of consumers do eventually motivate postive changes in the food industry. And those lawsuits certainly have been motivational for many manufacturers. The latest lawsuit we’ve been reading about is something we want to call to your attention because it may stir up some different feelings.
According to the New York Post, Barry Stoltz and Allan Chang are suing Chobani, alleging that the companies falsely represent their product by hiding the amount of sugar in their yogurt and by calling it “Greek.” Chobani Greek Yogurt is about as nutritious as eating a fudge ice cream bar,the lawsuit claims.
The 48-page suit, which accuses the best-selling brand of deceiving consumers about its health benefits, sounds more like a Jerry Seinfeld routine.
But its irony is unintentional.
“There is nothing ‘Greek’ about the products,” the complaint says. “None of the products sold in the U.S. are made in Greece or made by Greek nationals.”
“The name of the brand itself is not Greek,” noting that it is derived from the Turkish word “chobani,” which means shepherd, and the company’s founder is Turkish.
The suit contends Chobani products contain about 16 grams of sugar, virtually the same sweetness as a Nestlé Fudge ice cream bar.
Chobani allegedly creates further confusion for consumers by prominently displaying a “0%” on the label “without providing any context as to what the 0% represents,” the suit alleges.
The plaintiffs — Barry Stoltz of Scarsdale and Allan Chang of Queens — filed the class-action suit in Brooklyn Federal Court and are seeking unspecified monetary damages for apparently being tricked into thinking that 0%, which actually means it’s nonfat, refers to zero calories or sugar.
“With deceptive packaging and marketing, consumers are deceived into thinking that junk food can be a healthy alternative,” said lawyer C.K. Lee of Manhattan, who filed the suit.
Chobani, based in upstate Norwich, said a similar lawsuit had been tossed in California. The company said it is “committed to using only natural ingredients.”
It also schooled Stoltz and Chang on where Chobani is made.
“Much like English muffins and French fries, our fans understand Greek yogurt to be a product description about how we authentically make our yogurt and not about where we make our yogurt in upstate New York and Idaho,” the company said in a statement.
FoodFacts.com was thrilled to see Subway move to eliminate azodicarbonamide from its breads and rolls because consumers made their voices heard. We were equally happy about Gatorade removing brominated vegetable oil from their products that previously contained the controversial ingredient. We applauded Kashi removing the “all natural” claims from their products because of a lawsuit. It is certainly true that consumers would feel misled by claims that are obviously untrue.
Have to admit though, that none of us here at FoodFacts.com ever considered the possibility that ANY of the mainstream brands of Greek yogurt are actually manufactured in Greece by Greek nationals — unless of course we’re talking about imported products, which we’re not. We’re pretty positive that the overwhelming majority of consumers understand that what we’re talking about are products manufactured in the Greek style of yogurt preparation.
As far as the sugar content is concerned, we have to be honest here, 16 grams (while certainly higher than we’d like) is actually right in the ballpark for most mainstream brands. If you’ve been reading nutrition labels for yogurts, you probably know this already.
We’ve posted about this lawsuit for your consideration. Is this a reasonable claim?
FoodFacts.com would really like for consumers to use careful consideration before filing any lawsuit against food manufacturers. Please don’t get us wrong, legal claims are a great tool to change what is actually wrong with how food manufacturers market products. We just want to make sure they’re used to do just that. We’re really not so sure this particular lawsuit fits that bill. What do you think?