“Orange Vanilla” Coca-Cola Flavor Labeling New York Class Action

Vanilla is one of the most popular flavors—and one of the most expensive. Food and drink makers therefore have an incentive to engage in “food fraud” by using flavorings that seem like vanilla but that are not derived from real vanilla beans. The complaint for this class action alleges that Coca-Cola’s Orange Vanilla Coca-Cola drink contains a form of “fake vanilla” and is therefore improperly labeled.

The class for this action is all those who bought the product while living in New York, during the applicable statute of limitations.

Page 2 of the complaint bears an image of the Orange Vanilla Coke can, showing at the top of the can the words “Orange Vanilla” and, lower down, an image of a wedge of orange. At the very bottom of the can, in small type, are the words “Orange Vanilla Flavored & Other Natural Flavors.”

The complaint claims that the representations about vanilla are deceptive, “because the Product contains fake vanilla, not disclosed to consumers where they are expecting to see it on the front label.”

Vanilla’s flavor is complex and so cannot be adequately reproduced by science. Also, consumers these days want flavorings, particularly vanilla, to come from a real source, that is, vanilla beans.

Vanilla is the only flavor to have its own standard of identity in the Code of Federal Regulations. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established these standards to keep manufacturers from fooling consumers with cheap or fake imitations that they passed off as vanilla.

In this case, the complaint says that the representations of “Orange Vanilla” and “Orange Vanilla Flavored & Other Natural Flavors” are misleading because they indicate to consumers that the product is flavored with real vanilla, when in reality synthetic vanillin provides most of the vanilla taste.

How do we know this? The complaint reproduces the drink’s ingredient panel. It does not list any vanilla; the only flavoring it shows is “Natural Flavors.”

First, the complaint charges that the drink contains “added vanillin” and refers to “a completed or projected analysis of the flavoring revealing an abnormal excess of vanillin relative to the profile of minor components in a vanilla preparation…” This would mean that most of the vanilla flavor comes not from vanilla beans but from vanillin.

Second, real vanilla must be listed as “Vanilla Extract” or the like. The vanilla regulations require non-vanilla-bean flavors that imitate vanilla to be labeled as “Artificial Flavors,” even if they originally come from natural sources. Vanillin must always be considered an artificial flavor for labeling purposes.

Since the labeling does not do this, the complaint asserts, “[c]onsumers who read the ingredient list will expect that the ‘Natural Flavors’ are other natural vanilla flavors instead of artificial vanilla flavors and are misled to believe that the Product contains more vanilla than it does.”

Article Type: Lawsuit
Topic: Consumer

Most Recent Case Event

“Orange Vanilla” Coca-Cola Flavor Labeling New York Complaint

October 18, 2020

Vanilla is one of the most popular flavors—and one of the most expensive. Food and drink makers therefore have an incentive to engage in “food fraud” by using flavorings that seem like vanilla but that are not derived from real vanilla beans. The complaint for this class action alleges that Coca-Cola’s Orange Vanilla Coca-Cola drink contains a form of “fake vanilla” and is therefore improperly labeled.

“Orange Vanilla” Coca-Cola Flavor Labeling New York Complaint

Case Event History

“Orange Vanilla” Coca-Cola Flavor Labeling New York Complaint

October 18, 2020

Vanilla is one of the most popular flavors—and one of the most expensive. Food and drink makers therefore have an incentive to engage in “food fraud” by using flavorings that seem like vanilla but that are not derived from real vanilla beans. The complaint for this class action alleges that Coca-Cola’s Orange Vanilla Coca-Cola drink contains a form of “fake vanilla” and is therefore improperly labeled.

“Orange Vanilla” Coca-Cola Flavor Labeling New York Complaint
Tags: Contains Too Little of Featured Ingredients, Deceptive Advertising, Deceptive Labels, Does Not Admit to Artificial Flavor on Labels