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Annie Chun “No MSG Added” Product Labeling Class Action

CJ Foods is a corporation that owns Annie Chun’s, a brand of packaged Asian food products sold worldwide. The packaging on Annie Chun’s Soup Bowls, Asian Noodle Bowls, and Ramen House products contain the words “NO MSG ADDED” on the front. The class action alleges that the products contain ingredients that contain MSG and that the “NO MSG ADDED” labeling violates FDA requirements and California state law.

When food products are labeled, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not require that ingredients containing MSG are specified as containing MSG, but it does forbid foods with those ingredients from being labeled “No MSG” or “No added MSG”. MSG also cannot be indicated on labels as “spices” or “flavoring”.

MSG stands for monosodium glutamate, a flavor enhancer. It is controversial because it is reported to cause headaches, sweating, numbness, tingling or burning, rapid, fluttering heartbeats, chest pains, nausea, and weakness. It enhances the flavor of foods by making processed meats and frozen dinners taste fresher and smell better and canned food products seem less tinny. MSG itself has very little flavor, but because it has the savory taste called “umami” (one of the five basic tastes, along with bitter, salty, sour, and sweet), it tricks people into believing that food tastes better and has more protein.

The FDA has received reports of headaches and nausea supposedly caused by MSG. Medical literature reports adverse effects from eating MSG regularly, including headaches, fatigue and disorientation, depression, chest pain or difficulty breathing, nausea and rapid heartbeats, and drowsiness and weakness.

Many consumers feel that chemicals in food are the number one food safety issue, and roughly half of consumers deliberately avoid MSG. The complaint alleges that food manufacturers know this, but, rather than remove MSG from their foods, they try to hide its presence.

The main ingredient in MSG is glutamic acid, an amino acid contained in more than forty ingredients that consumers generally do not associate with MSG, such as calcium caseinate, gelatin, and hydrolyzed protein. In addition, other ingredients—such as natural beef, pork, or chicken flavoring, powdered milk, and soy sauce—either contain MSG or create it during processing.

The FDA does not require that foods be labeled as containing MSG if the MSG or glutamic acid is naturally present or formed during processing. However, such foods cannot be labeled “No MSG” or “No added MSG”.

The class action therefore alleges violations of California law in areas such as unfair competition, false advertising, and express warranty.

Annie Chun “No MSG Added” Product Labeling Class Action

CJ Foods is a corporation that owns Annie Chun’s, a brand of packaged Asian food products sold worldwide. The packaging on Annie Chun’s Soup Bowls, Asian Noodle Bowls, and Ramen House products contain the words “NO MSG ADDED” on the front. The class action alleges that the products contain ingredients that contain MSG and that the “NO MSG ADDED” labeling violates FDA requirements and California state law.

When food products are labeled, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not require that ingredients containing MSG are specified as containing MSG, but it does forbid foods with those ingredients from being labeled “No MSG” or “No added MSG”. MSG also cannot be indicated on labels as “spices” or “flavoring”.

MSG stands for monosodium glutamate, a flavor enhancer. It is controversial because it is reported to cause headaches, sweating, numbness, tingling or burning, rapid, fluttering heartbeats, chest pains, nausea, and weakness. It enhances the flavor of foods by making processed meats and frozen dinners taste fresher and smell better and canned food products seem less tinny. MSG itself has very little flavor, but because it has the savory taste called “umami” (one of the five basic tastes, along with bitter, salty, sour, and sweet), it tricks people into believing that food tastes better and has more protein.

The FDA has received reports of headaches and nausea supposedly caused by MSG. Medical literature reports adverse effects from eating MSG regularly, including headaches, fatigue and disorientation, depression, chest pain or difficulty breathing, nausea and rapid heartbeats, and drowsiness and weakness.

Many consumers feel that chemicals in food are the number one food safety issue, and roughly half of consumers deliberately avoid MSG. The complaint alleges that food manufacturers know this, but, rather than remove MSG from their foods, they try to hide its presence.

The main ingredient in MSG is glutamic acid, an amino acid contained in more than forty ingredients that consumers generally do not associate with MSG, such as calcium caseinate, gelatin, and hydrolyzed protein. In addition, other ingredients—such as natural beef, pork, or chicken flavoring, powdered milk, and soy sauce—either contain MSG or create it during processing.

The FDA does not require that foods be labeled as containing MSG if the MSG or glutamic acid is naturally present or formed during processing. However, such foods cannot be labeled “No MSG” or “No added MSG”.

The class action therefore alleges violations of California law in areas such as unfair competition, false advertising, and express warranty.

Stevia In The Raw® “Natural” Claims Called into Question

A class action suit is pending against Cumberland Packing Corp., whose sweetener product Stevia In The Raw® is marketed as one hundred percent natural. In fact, Stevia contains dextrose and maltodextrin, two highly processed chemicals. These substances are created when genetically modified corn is converted into food starch, and then mixed with enzymes.

The suit alleges that Cumberland Packing Corp. uses misleading and deceptive practices to lure consumers. Stevia In The Raw® is sold as an all-natural sweetener that is derived primarily from the stevia leaf, a plant native to South America. The product’s Frequently Asked Questions page describes the “purification” process of the sweet, natural leaf. Words such as “wholesome,” “pure,” and “all-natural” have been used to describe Stevia In The Raw® to consumers.

In truth, the sweetener contains a very small amount of a substance that is extracted from the stevia leaf. This substance is known as “Reb A,” and it is the result of multistep process that requires the use of toxic chemicals.

A chief allegation of the class action suit is that branding Stevia In The Raw® a natural sweetener is deceptive, misleading, and false. Any reasonable consumer would not purchase the product knowing the stevia leaf extract is highly processed and/or synthetic.

Other alleged deceptions within the suit include Cumberland Packing’s marketing on the product’s packaging. The label includes graphics of a leaf in earth tones with a prominent statement that reads, “100% Natural Zero Calorie Sweetener,” along with many other “natural” claims and implications.

The primary ingredient of Stevia In The Raw® is either dextrose or maltodextrin, substances that come from genetically modified corn seed. The actual stevia leaf extract, Reb A, is an ingredient that results from a chemical process. Thus, the suit asserts that a reasonable consumer is deceived by Cumberland Packing’s marketing practices, violating state consumer protection laws.

According to the suit, Cumberland Packing has made enormous profits in its deceptions. The retail cost of Stevia In The Raw® is far greater than that of granulated sugar. The premium the consumer pays is for the promise of a natural sweetener, a misrepresentation in the eyes of the class action plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs in this class action suit seek declaratory relief, restitution for monies wrongly obtained, disgorgement of ill-gotten revenues and/or profits, injunctive relief prohibiting the defendant from continuing to disseminate its false and misleading statements, and other relief allowable under GBL 349.

 

Defective Atlas Chalet Shingles Class Action Lawsuit

This class action alleges that Atlas designed, made, and sold defective shingles for many years in many states, and that even though it was made aware of the defects in the shingles, it did nothing to correct them or to inform prospective customers about them.

The shingles were sold to builders, contractors, and suppliers who installed them in homes and other buildings. In product brochures, marketing materials, and product labels, Atlas claimed that the shingles met building codes and other industry standards. It offered a thirty-year warranty to homeowners on whose buildings the shingles were installed.

Atlas claims to be “an industry leader with 17 plants in North America and worldwide product distribution” and says that its roofing products “are designed to give our customers value, design and long lasting quality.”

However, the plaintiffs, residents of Alabama, believe that the shingles did not conform to Alabama building codes or industry standards.

They allege that the shingles were designed and made in a way that allows moisture to enter the shingle, where it creates a gas bubble. This bubble expands in sunlight and permits blistering and cracking, which cause early granule loss, more moisture absorption, and a shorter useful life for the shingles. The shingles must then be replaced sooner than usual. Also, the plaintiffs claim that the shingles’ early failure causes damage to the underlying structures and other property and permits water leaks. 

Atlas claims that its shingles will last for thirty years, and that if they don’t, it will remedy the situation. However, the plaintiffs say that their shingles began to fail after only several years’ use. (Their home was built in 2004, and the complaint was filed in 2014.)

The plaintiffs believe that Atlas has received many complaints similar to theirs and that Atlas has rejected some and settled others in a way that does not meet the terms of its warranty and that does not cover the cost of replacing the shingles. The plaintiffs allege that when they submitted their warranty claim to Atlas, it required that they submit shingle samples and documentation that was burdensome or unavailable. They also say that Atlas claimed the shingles were not defective and blamed the problems on weather damage or the installation.

The plaintiffs claim that they must replace the shingles now to prevent any further damage to their homes’ structures or interiors, but that Atlas’s warranties aren’t adequate to the expense.

 

Defective Atlas Chalet Shingles Class Action Lawsuit

This class action alleges that Atlas designed, made, and sold defective shingles for many years in many states, and that even though it was made aware of the defects in the shingles, it did nothing to correct them or to inform prospective customers about them.

The shingles were sold to builders, contractors, and suppliers who installed them in homes and other buildings. In product brochures, marketing materials, and product labels, Atlas claimed that the shingles met building codes and other industry standards. It offered a thirty-year warranty to homeowners on whose buildings the shingles were installed.

Atlas claims to be “an industry leader with 17 plants in North America and worldwide product distribution” and says that its roofing products “are designed to give our customers value, design and long lasting quality.”

However, the plaintiffs, residents of Alabama, believe that the shingles did not conform to Alabama building codes or industry standards.

They allege that the shingles were designed and made in a way that allows moisture to enter the shingle, where it creates a gas bubble. This bubble expands in sunlight and permits blistering and cracking, which cause early granule loss, more moisture absorption, and a shorter useful life for the shingles. The shingles must then be replaced sooner than usual. Also, the plaintiffs claim that the shingles’ early failure causes damage to the underlying structures and other property and permits water leaks. 

Atlas claims that its shingles will last for thirty years, and that if they don’t, it will remedy the situation. However, the plaintiffs say that their shingles began to fail after only several years’ use. (Their home was built in 2004, and the complaint was filed in 2014.)

The plaintiffs believe that Atlas has received many complaints similar to theirs and that Atlas has rejected some and settled others in a way that does not meet the terms of its warranty and that does not cover the cost of replacing the shingles. The plaintiffs allege that when they submitted their warranty claim to Atlas, it required that they submit shingle samples and documentation that was burdensome or unavailable. They also say that Atlas claimed the shingles were not defective and blamed the problems on weather damage or the installation.

The plaintiffs claim that they must replace the shingles now to prevent any further damage to their homes’ structures or interiors, but that Atlas’s warranties aren’t adequate to the expense.

 

Kraft Natural Cheese Class Action Lawsuit

In May 2014, with an amended complaint filed November 2014, California residents C.M. and M.G. brought suit against Kraft Foods Group as purchasers of Kraft Natural Cheese – Shredded Cheese – Cheddar Fat Free, one of a variety of “Kraft Natural Cheese” products, alleging Kraft sold and distributed with that and other cheese products with the label “Natural” although the products contained artificial ingredients, specifically, artificial color. They purchased the “Natural” cheese products several times since May 2010 at various California grocery stores based on Kraft’s representations that the cheese was “Natural” and state they would not have purchased the product if they had known the Product contained artificial or synthetic ingredients, such as “artificial color. ”

Kraft’s “Natural Cheese” claim is alleged to be prominently displayed “front and center” on product packaging as well as included in other advertising and promotional material, such as the company website and television commercials.

C.M. and M.G. allege Kraft is aware of the public’s concern about natural and healthy foods and derives a financial benefit from selling products claiming to be natural or healthy or to have ingredients consistent with such characteristics.  They seek class certification and damages, restitution and injunctive relief on behalf of California consumers who purchased the products marketed by Kraft as “Natural Cheese”, in violation of California and federal advertising laws [California Business & Professions Code sections 17200, et seq., and 17500, et seq., California Civil Code section 1750, et seq., and the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act (California Civil Code sections 1770(a)(5) and 1770(a)(7)].   The number of class members in California is estimated to be in the “many thousands.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers use of the term “natural” on a food label to be truthful and non-misleading only when “nothing artificial or synthetic has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be the food.”  According to FDA policy, there is no restriction on the use of the term “natural” except for added color, synthetic substances, and flavors as provided in [21 C.F.R.] § 101.22.  

On June 24, 2015, U.S. District Judge John A. Kronstadt partially granted a motion for class certification for consumers who bought the Kraft cheese products since May 2010 who were "misled" by the “natural cheese” representation on the products.

JAG Specialty Foods Angonoa’s Breadsticks “All Natural” Lawsuit

Lukasz Monka purchased Angonoa’s Sesame Breadsticks made by JAG Specialty Foods at a Publix Supermarket in Florida prior to filing his complaint alleging unfair and deceptive businesses practices in June 2014.  The JAG breadsticks were labeled “All Natural” but included soybean oil and/or corn syrup, which are unnatural, synthetic and/or artificial ingredients.

JAG manufactured, marketed and distributed several breadstick varieties described as “All Natural,” including plain, garlic, sesame, fat free, onion, whole wheat and everything breadsticks, all of which included soybean oil and/or corn syrup as ingredients. The term “All Natural” was displayed on the front of the box and individual breadstick packaging.  

Corn syrup and soybean oils are created by chemical refining processes.  The FDA has issued guidance on the use of the term “Natural” on food labels, defining “natural” products as not containing added “color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”  

FDA regulations identify an ingredient as synthetic if it is a “substance that is formulated or manufactured by a chemical process or by a process that chemically changes a substance extracted from naturally occurring plant, animal, or mineral sources, except that such term shall not apply to substances created by naturally occurring biological processes. 7 C.F.R. §205.2

Monka brought a class action suit against JAG seeking to represent Florida purchasers alleging violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, Fla. Stat. §§501.201, et seq., for negligent misrepresentation and breach of warranties, including The Magnuson- Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2301 et seq.  He alleged that a reasonable consumer might interpret the names of some of the ingredients (i.e., corn syrup and soybean oil) as “natural,” although the ingredients are in fact highly processed or synthetic, and thus not “natural.” Monka claimed that if he and class members had known the products contained unnatural, synthetic, and/or artificial ingredients, they would not have purchased them.

The complaint charged JAG with engaging in a widespread marketing and advertising campaign portraying the products as “All Natural” to induce consumers to pay a premium price for the products in reliance on the fraudulent representation that the food products were “All Natural” when the products were alleged not be “All Natural” due to the presence of unnatural, synthetic, and/or artificial ingredients.

Monka sought an injunction enjoining JAG from continuing to engage in alleged unfair and deceptive acts related to the design and marketing of the products and damages for various state and federal statutory violations for class members.

Goodman Amana Leaking Air Conditioner Evaporator Coil Class Action

This lawsuit alleges that Goodman Amana violated state consumer protection laws and express and implied warranties with certain of its air conditioners, because the air conditioners’ evaporator coils were prone to leaking. The action covers people and entities in Florida who bought these Goodman Amana products from July 1, 2006 through February 2, 2012, and who suffered damages because of the leaking refrigerant.

The plaintiff alleges that evaporator coils used in the products were defective and that they developed leaks prematurely under normal use. Buyers of these air conditioners have therefore had to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to diagnose and repair the problems and to replace the leaked refrigerant.

The life expectancy of central air conditioning units is thought to be about fifteen years. Consumers can thus expect them to work for about ten years, or even longer, without needing major repairs.

An air conditioner’s evaporator coil is made up of piping filled with a refrigerant. As air passes over the coil, the coil takes heat from the air, and the cooler air is sent back out. An air conditioner should never use up or run out of refrigerant because the refrigerant is simply a medium used to transfer heat from the inside to the outside of a building. The only way refrigerant is lost is through a leak in the system.

The plaintiffs allege that the evaporator coils in Goodman products leaked because the copper tubing was too thin and prematurely corroded and had holes or cracks. They point out that chemicals common in indoor air, such as formaldehyde from cleaning products, can convert to formic acid in the copper coil and cause pinholes that allow the refrigerant to leak.

Also, the Clean Air Act of 1990 required that the refrigerant Freon be phased out in air conditioning systems, and that more environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient substances be used. However, these newer refrigerants operate a much higher pressures than Freon. According to the complaint, this worsened the leakage problem with Goodman air conditioners.

The complaint quotes numerous online postings from buyers (and even HVAC technicians) who have had leakage problems with the Goodman products; some mention having to make the same repair more than once. The complaint alleges that one Goodman dealer said that 80% of the Goodman products handled by his company had had leakage problems. It also alleges that, for a time, Goodman offered some of its distributors an allowance of $300 per unit because it knew how widespread the leakage problems were.

Despite the vulnerability of the copper coils, Goodman’s warranty only offered to replace defective parts. It did not cover the expenses of having HVAC repair people diagnose the problem and install the new parts, or the cost of replacement refrigerant.

MASTIC Home Exteriors Oasis Composite Decking Class Action Lawsuit

In January 2014, Massachusetts resident Anthony Pagliaroni sued Mastic Home Exteriors and Deceuninck North America, LLC  alleging that the companies failed to properly design, develop, test, manufacture, distribute, market and sell composite decking products (Oasis Composite Decking), in violation of state consumer protection laws. Pagliaroni claimed multiple defects in the products made them prone to severe cracking, warping, and discoloration requiring premature replacement.  

In August 2006, Pagliaroni’s contractor purchased Oasis decking to build a raised deck on his home. The products are made from yellow pine wood flour mixed with high density polyethylene and designed to look and work like natural wood but without ongoing maintenance requirements. The products were advertised as “engineered to outlast and out perform ordinary wood and composite decks for years of enjoyment.” Oasis Decking included a multiple year warranties from Mastic and Deceuninck covering rot, decay, splitting, splintering and termite damage.

Pagliaroni noticed the decking was discoloring beginning to crack after one year. Severe warping, expansion and separation of the decking developed and continued over the next 3-4 years.  Pagiaroni and other purchasers alleged that the product warranties did not provide the coverage represented by the manufacturer and other involved companies.

Mastic and Deceuninck are alleged to have made representations regarding the decking with the intent and purpose of inducing suppliers, builders, and consumers to purchase and install the decking residential and commercial  structures. The suit alleges that because of the defective design and manufacture, the decking is inherently defective and certain to fall within the express warranty provided and that Mastic and Deceuninck failed in their duty to disclose that their Oasis Decking was defective, unreliable and inherently flawed in its design or manufacture.

The suit seeks class action certification for purchasers of Oasis decking alleging Mastic and Deceuninck failed to design, develop, test, manufacture, distribute, market and sell the product resulting in serious safety issues for the consumers as well as economic damages.

Angie’s List Manipulated Reviews and Ratings Class Action

Angie’s List offers consumers a listing of local service providers (plumbers, carpenters, masseuses, dentists, mechanics, etc.) along with reviews, rankings, and ratings. The beauty of Angie’s List is that it allows consumers who have already had experience with particular service providers to post reviews about them. Consumers pay a monthly fee to become members and get access to these supposedly unbiased reviews before hiring a service provider.

The class action alleges that, instead of providing unbiased and unfiltered information, Angie’s List secretly manipulates the information it posts for the company’s own economic gain.

According to Angie’s List, a service provider’s position in a member’s search results “is determined by their recent grades and number of reviews. Companies with the best ratings from members will appear first.” It also assures consumers that “service providers cannot influence their ratings on Angie’s List,” and that businesses and companies can’t pay to be on the list. Angie’s List claims it places the interests of the consumer first, and that it “simply acts a passive conduit” for reviews and ratings based upon actual first-hand experiences other users have had.

The plaintiff alleges that, in fact, service providers can and do pay to influence their reviews, rankings, and ratings, in at least three ways.

First, the plaintiff alleges that service providers can pay to appear higher up in members’ search results. For example, a plumber with an A rating and all positive reviews who did not pay “advertising” fees may rank lower than a plumber who did pay such fees but has worse reviews or ratings. One investigation report alleges that the best-reviewed heating and air company in its area was ranked below eleven others that had inferior ratings or few reviews. This best-reviewed service provider claimed that Angie’s List had asked it to pay $12,000-$15,000 for ranking at the top of the list.

Second, the plaintiff alleges that service providers can pay to suppress negative reviews, so that these reviews do not appear in members’ search results. Members are therefore not getting the objective assessment that Angie’s List promises to give them.

Third, the plaintiff alleges that Angie’s List threatens to suppress positive reviewers of service providers unless they pay “advertising” fees. This also prevents members from making an accurate assessment of the service providers.  

Angie’s List promises unfiltered reviews, ratings, and rankings, driven entirely by consumer opinion. The class action alleges that it does not provide this, so that it defrauds its members. It alleges that Angie’s List does not help members find the best service providers, but rather those who have paid the most to Angie’s List.