Mission Foods Faces Lawsuit Over Guacamole Claims

Popular tortilla maker—Mission Foods—must defend itself against a <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/other_topics">consumer lawsuit claiming it is misleading consumers over transfat content in its products, said Courthouse News. It seems Mission Foods uses terms such as “all natural” for its spicy bean dip and “guacamole” for a dip that contains fewer than two percent avocado powder and no avocado, according to a Los Angeles federal judge’s ruling, said Courthouse News

Mary Henderson and Eileen Joy Peviani, the lead plaintiffs in the Mission Foods lawsuit, are accusing its parent company, Gruma Corp., of using misleading labeling for its bean and guacamole dips. The Mission Guacamole and Mission Spicy Bean Dip labels tout “0 g transfat” and “0 g cholesterol”; however, the plaintiffs allege the labeling is bogus—claiming guacamole-flavoring is guacamole and that its “all natural” dips made in “the authentic tradition” and “with garden vegetables,” are also bogus claims, wrote Courthouse News.

Courthouse News wrote that the Plaintiffs argue they would never have purchased the products had they known the products contain transfat—an ingredient linked to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer—and that they lost money by purchasing products that made false claims.

U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz ruled this week that Henderson and Peviani did identify a valid claim under unfair competition and false advertising laws, and that the manufacturer failed to prove it removed the misleading labels.
”With such advertising remaining on supermarket shelves, Plaintiffs, as representatives of a class, should be entitled to pursue injunctive relief on behalf of all consumers in order to protect consumers from Defendant’s alleged false advertising,” <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/other_topics">Matz wrote, quoted Courthouse News.

The claim of disgorgement of profits under the False Advertising Act was stricken before trial; however, the class can continue to seek restitution and damages. Also, Gruma can advertise its products as produced in “the authentic tradition” and “with garden vegetables,” because, said Courthouse News, the words “authentic tradition” is “simple puffery” and there is apparently no mandate on how many garden vegetables are required to fulfill the claim that a product contains vegetables. “The product does, in fact, contain vegetables that can be grown in a garden,” Matz wrote, citing the avocado powder, dehydrated onion, and garlic powder involved in the manufacture of Mission Guacamole.

Misleading food labels are not only illegal, they have had a hand in the growing problem of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, among other problems, in the United States, due to false claims and confusing nutritional information.

We reported recently that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent warning letters to 17 food makers, advising them to correct misleading label claims. In all, 22 food items were cited for violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. That action followed an October 2009 statement by Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret Hamburg, M.D., encouraging companies to review product labeling to ensure compliance with FDA regulations, and that statements be truthful and not misleading. It seems that Mission Foods and Gruma are skating under the wire with at least two claims that had to be stricken from the class claim. FDA regulations state that “If the serving contains less than 0.5 gram [of transfat], the content, when declared, shall be expressed as zero.” This allows Mission Products and Gruma to get away with its claims of “0 g transfat” and “0 g cholesterol.”

Judge Matz will allow the class to move ahead with its claims concerning the “guacamole” and “all natural” label complaints, said Courthouse News. “A reasonable consumer could interpret Defendant’s statements and label to imply that the product is indeed guacamole, which it is not, as it allegedly contains less than 2% avocado powder,” Matz wrote, quoted Courthouse News. And, although, Gruma claims “Guacamole” is simply a word in the title “Guacamole Flavored Dip,” Matz noted that the word “guacamole” is significantly more prominent than “flavored dip,” reported Courthouse News.

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