Organic 365 “Vanilla” Rice Milk Labeling Class Action

Whole Foods Market Group, Inc. produces food and beverages under the Organic 365 brand, including a “vanilla” rice milk drink. The complaint for this class action alleges that the designation of this drink as “vanilla,” without any qualifications, means that the rice milk is flavored exclusively with vanilla from vanilla beans—something the complaint also alleges is not true.

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 reproduces an image of the front of the carton, which prominently displays the word “Vanilla,” without any qualifiers that might indicate that the flavor comes from any other source.

Vanilla is both popular and in short supply throughout the world. This means that makers of vanilla-flavored products have great incentive to find non-vanilla substitutes that can imitate or extend the flavor of vanilla.

One of the substances that does this is vanillin, which has been in use since the mid-1800s. However, today, only 1-2% of vanillin in commercial use comes from the vanilla plant. Even vanillins which come originally from a natural source may be processed in ways that require them to be regarded as synthetic.

Because vanilla is expensive, the complaint says, many companies want to use less of it and have turned to what’s known as Vanilla WONF, or vanilla with other natural flavors.

According to the complaint, the factors that determine whether the non-vanilla flavors should be disclosed include the relationship between the vanilla and non-vanilla flavorings and whether the flavor is added for a “non-flavor” purpose, like reinforcing or extending the vanilla flavor or increasing the impression of sweetness.

The ingredient panel for the rice milk includes “Organic Vanilla Extract” and “Natural Flavor.” The complaint alleges, “For the ‘Natural Flavor’ to not be mentioned on the front label, it must perform a function unrelated to the Product’s characterizing flavor, vanilla.”

The complaint says that “preliminary analysis reveals the ‘Natural Flavor’ consists of flavors that extend and enhance the Product’s vanilla taste.” If these other natural flavors contain vanillin not derived from vanilla, then they cannot be properly called natural flavors and must be disclosed as artificial flavors on the front panel of the carton.

The complaint thus alleges that the product’s labeling is deceptive and misleading. It claims that the product violates state consumer protection laws, commits negligent misrepresentation and fraud, and breaches assorted warranties, such as the implied warranty of merchantability, among other things.

Article Type: Lawsuit
Topic: Consumer

Most Recent Case Event

Organic 365 “Vanilla” Rice Milk Labeling Complaint

February 26, 2020

Whole Foods Market Group, Inc. produces food and beverages under the Organic 365 brand, including a “vanilla” rice milk drink. The complaint for this class action alleges that the designation of this drink as “vanilla,” without any qualifications, means that the rice milk is flavored exclusively with vanilla from vanilla beans—something the complaint also alleges is not true.

Organic 365 “Vanilla” Rice Milk Labeling Complaint

Case Event History

Organic 365 “Vanilla” Rice Milk Labeling Complaint

February 26, 2020

Whole Foods Market Group, Inc. produces food and beverages under the Organic 365 brand, including a “vanilla” rice milk drink. The complaint for this class action alleges that the designation of this drink as “vanilla,” without any qualifications, means that the rice milk is flavored exclusively with vanilla from vanilla beans—something the complaint also alleges is not true.

Organic 365 “Vanilla” Rice Milk Labeling Complaint
Tags: Contains Too Little of Featured Ingredients, Deceptive Advertising, Deceptive Labels, Negligent Misrepresentation