McDonald’s “Vanilla” Soft-Serve Ice Cream Labeling Class Action

At its 14,000 fast-food restaurants, McDonald’s Corporation offers soft-serve or reduced-fat ice cream that it designates as “vanilla.” The “vanilla” designation is displayed on its menu boards, drive-through displays, website, and marketing materials. The complaint for this class action takes issue with this designation, claiming that it indicates that the ice cream is flavored only with vanilla from vanilla beans, when (it also claims) that is not the case.

The class for this action is all those who bought the product in New York and the other forty-nine states during the applicable statute of limitations.

The complaint shows an image of a panel showing a “Vanilla Cone” of soft-serve ice cream that looks like it’s part of a drive-through display. Below, it says, “The representations are misleading because though the flavor is represented as vanilla, the vanilla taste and flavor is not provided exclusively by vanilla but from non-vanilla sources.”

Soft-serve ice cream was originally called ice milk. The complaint says that its labeling requirements in the Code of Federal Regulations “were generally consistent” with those for ice cream, defining it as “the food prepared from the same ingredients and in the same manner prescribed in §135.110 for ice cream and complies with all provisions of §135.110 including the requirements for label statements of optional ingredients…”

Also regarding requirements, the complaint says, “In a modified ice cream, the ingredients were required to be those permitted by the particular standard, subject to certain exceptions.” Also, it says, “Because non-vanilla flavor is not permitted in vanilla ice cream, it is by definition not permitted in vanilla ice cream versions modified by an expressed nutrient content claim.” This, the complaint alleges, includes vanilla ice milk or soft serve vanilla ice cream.

The problem is that vanilla is not only a popular flavor but an expensive and scarce one. Makers of vanilla ice cream therefore have an incentive to try to find other ways to reproduce the flavor of vanilla. One substance that can do this is vanillin. However, very little of the vanillin used commercially today comes from the vanilla bean. Where vanillin is used, it is required to be disclosed on the label.

The complaint alleges that a product that is called “Vanilla Ice Cream” must contain only the characterizing flavor derived from vanilla beans.

The complaint says, “Because vanilla extract and vanilla flavoring are defined by standards of identity, they must be declared on the ingredient list with those names.” However, the ingredient list for the McDonald’s ice cream lists neither one. It lists only “Natural Flavor” and no vanilla ingredients. The complaint therefore says that the flavorings are not exclusively from the vanilla bean, so that the identification of the flavor as “Vanilla” is misleading.

Article Type: Lawsuit
Topic: News

Most Recent Case Event

McDonald’s “Vanilla” Soft-Serve Ice Cream Complaint

March 8, 2020

At its 14,000 fast-food restaurants, McDonald’s Corporation offers soft-serve or reduced-fat ice cream that it designates as “vanilla.” The “vanilla” designation is displayed on its menu boards, drive-through displays, website, and marketing materials. The complaint for this class action takes issue with this designation, claiming that it indicates that the ice cream is flavored only with vanilla from vanilla beans, when (it also claims) that is not the case.

McDonald’s “Vanilla” Soft-Serve Ice Cream Complaint

Case Event History

McDonald’s “Vanilla” Soft-Serve Ice Cream Complaint

March 8, 2020

At its 14,000 fast-food restaurants, McDonald’s Corporation offers soft-serve or reduced-fat ice cream that it designates as “vanilla.” The “vanilla” designation is displayed on its menu boards, drive-through displays, website, and marketing materials. The complaint for this class action takes issue with this designation, claiming that it indicates that the ice cream is flavored only with vanilla from vanilla beans, when (it also claims) that is not the case.

McDonald’s “Vanilla” Soft-Serve Ice Cream Complaint
Tags: Contains Too Little of Featured Ingredients, Deceptive Advertising, Deceptive Labels