Wegmans “French Vanilla” Ice Cream Flavor Designation Class Action

Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. sells an ice cream that is labeled “French Vanilla.” The complaint for this class action alleges that this designation is misleading and deceptive, because it suggests that the ice cream is flavored “only from its natural characterizing flavor, vanilla” from vanilla beans—when in fact, the complaint claims, it is not.

The classes for this action are all who bought the product in New York and New Jersey and all other states where Wegmans has stores selling the product, during the applicable statutes of limitations.

An image in the complaint shows a carton of the ice cream that includes the designations “French Vanilla Ice Cream” and the words, “No Artificial Colors, Flavors, or Preservatives.”

“French” ice cream is a type of ice cream with an egg yolk base. This may be true of the Wegmans brand, but the complaint alleges that the vanilla designation is deceptive.

Vanilla is a popular but expensive and scarce flavoring source. Also, vanilla ice cream labeling is governed by different federal rules than those for general flavoring.

The rules identify three categories of vanilla ice cream.

  • Category I is vanilla ice cream that is flavored only with vanilla extract.
  • Category II contains “a natural characterizing flavor and an artificial flavor simulating it,” where the natural vanilla flavor predominates.
  • Category III contains “a natural characterizing flavor and an artificial flavor simulating it” or only artificial flavor. This means that even if the flavors that simulate vanilla come originally from natural sources, they must still be identified as artificial flavors.

The Wegmans product’s ingredient panel does not list any vanilla flavoring from the vanilla bean; it lists only “Natural Flavor.” The complaint says, “Even if (and assuming) vanilla extract and vanilla flavoring is part of the ‘Natural Flavor,’ these are part of a ‘blend (other natural flavors) in Category I ice cream”—something that the complaint claims is prohibited.

Another item on the ingredient list is “Annatto (Color)” which makes the product yellower. The complaint alleges, “The darker color makes plaintiffs and consumers less likely to question or be skeptical of the amount and type of vanilla in the Product and expect the Product to be similar to other, accurately labeled French vanilla ice creams.”

Also, the complaint says, “Though coloring for ice cream is specifically authorized, it is not permitted if such coloring is use for a misleading purpose such as making it appear that more of a valuable ingredient is present than is the case.”

Attached to the original complaint are Advisory Letters from the Food and Drug Administration intended to clarify the labeling rules discussed in this case.

Thus the identification of the flavor as “Vanilla” with no qualifications and the words “No Artificial Flavors” are deceptive, according to the complaint, because they do not take into consideration “that ‘artificial flavors’ does not mean the same thing in ice cream as it does in non-ice cream foods.”

Article Type: Lawsuit
Topic: Consumer

Most Recent Case Event

Wegmans “French Vanilla” Ice Cream Flavor Designation Complaint

March 16, 2020

Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. sells an ice cream that is labeled “French Vanilla.” The complaint for this class action alleges that this designation is misleading and deceptive, because it suggests that the ice cream is flavored “only from its natural characterizing flavor, vanilla” from vanilla beans—when in fact, the complaint claims, it is not.

Wegmans “French Vanilla” Ice Cream Flavor Designation Complaint

Case Event History

Wegmans “French Vanilla” Ice Cream Flavor Designation Complaint

March 16, 2020

Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. sells an ice cream that is labeled “French Vanilla.” The complaint for this class action alleges that this designation is misleading and deceptive, because it suggests that the ice cream is flavored “only from its natural characterizing flavor, vanilla” from vanilla beans—when in fact, the complaint claims, it is not.

Wegmans “French Vanilla” Ice Cream Flavor Designation Complaint
Tags: Contains Too Little of Featured Ingredients, Deceptive Advertising, Deceptive Labels