Wholesome Pantry “Vanilla” Soymilk Labeling Class Action

Alone among flavors, vanilla has its own “standard of identity” in federal flavoring regulations—its own requirements for how vanilla-flavored foods and beverages are labeled. The complaint for this class action alleges that Shop-Rite Supermarkets, Inc. mislabels its Wholesome Pantry brand “Vanilla” Soymilk product, because it does not meet the requirements for vanilla labeling. 

The complaint includes an image of the front of the product’s carton, with the word “Vanilla” prominently displayed. The complaint claims that this representation is misleading “because the Product’s taste and flavor, recognized by consumers as vanilla, is not provided exclusively by vanilla beans…”

Vanilla is a sought-after flavor, but it’s also expensive and in short supply in the world. Because of this, food manufacturers have looked for ways to reproduce the flavor of vanilla without the use of the vanilla bean.

One way of doing this is via the use of vanillin, which has been around since the mid-1800s. According to the complaint, “only 1-2% of vanillin in commercial use is vanillin obtained from the vanilla plant…” Even when vanillin comes from a natural source, it may be processed in ways that render it synthetic by the standards of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Food that contains vanillin must declare the presence of vanillin as an artificial flavor.

If a food, such as a soymilk, contains a characterizing flavor from vanilla, plus “other natural flavor which simulates, resembles or reinforces the characterizing flavor,” the complaint says, quoting federal law, then the front label must say, “with other natural flavor.” 

Some companies use combinations that are known as “Vanilla WONF” or “vanilla with other natural flavors.” If the food contains enough vanilla to characterize the flavor, the complaint says, it should be labeled “Vanilla with Other Natural Flavor”; if not, then it should be labeled “Vanilla Flavored with Other Natural Flavor.”

The complaint argues that the “Natural Flavors” on the ingredient list cannot signify vanilla. “If an exclusively vanilla ingredient is added to a food, it is required to be labeled by its common or usual name provided by its standard of identity.” This means that a real vanilla flavoring, like vanilla extract, should be called exactly that and not “natural flavor.”

For this soymilk product, the ingredient panel lists “…Organic Natural Flavors, Natural Flavors, Gellan Gum, Organic Vanilla Extract…” In other words, the order of the ingredients shows that the soymilk contains both organic natural flavors and natural flavors in greater quantity than vanilla extract. The complaint alleges that the fact that the other flavors play a large part in flavoring the product should be indicated on the front label by some qualification of the word “Vanilla.”

The class for this action is consumers in New York and the other forty-nine states who bought the Wholesome Pantry Vanilla Soymilk based on the misleading representatons.

Article Type: Lawsuit
Topic: Consumer

Most Recent Case Event

Wholesome Pantry “Vanilla” Soymilk Labeling Complaint

January 28, 2020

Alone among flavors, vanilla has its own “standard of identity” in federal flavoring regulations—its own requirements for how vanilla-flavored foods and beverages are labeled. The complaint for this class action alleges that Shop-Rite Supermarkets, Inc. mislabels its Wholesome Pantry brand “Vanilla” Soymilk product, because it does not meet the requirements for vanilla labeling. 

wholesome_pantry_22vaniilla22_soymilk_compl.pdf

Case Event History

Wholesome Pantry “Vanilla” Soymilk Labeling Complaint

January 28, 2020

Alone among flavors, vanilla has its own “standard of identity” in federal flavoring regulations—its own requirements for how vanilla-flavored foods and beverages are labeled. The complaint for this class action alleges that Shop-Rite Supermarkets, Inc. mislabels its Wholesome Pantry brand “Vanilla” Soymilk product, because it does not meet the requirements for vanilla labeling. 

wholesome_pantry_22vaniilla22_soymilk_compl.pdf
Tags: Contains Too Little of Featured Ingredients, Deceptive Advertising, Deceptive Labels