Riverside Partners, LLC and Nustef Baking Ltd. make traditional Italian waffle cookies known as pizzelles. These Reko brand pizzelles come in a purportedly “vanilla” variety. The complaint for this class action alleges that the cookies are misbranded because they are not flavored exclusively with real vanilla.
The class for this action is consumers in New York and the other forty-nine states, presumably those who have brought the product with actionable representations during the statute of limitations.
The front label of the package includes the representation “Vanilla” in large letters with no qualifications. The back label includes a blurb about the cookies ending in the statement, “Made with cast iron griddles and the best of ingredients, I bring you a little taste of my heritage!”
This paragraph is signed by Cesidio Nucci, who may indeed be “made with cast iron griddles and the best of ingredients…” Unfortunately, the ingredient label shows that the cookies are made with “Artificial Vanilla Flavor.”
Vanilla-flavored foods and drinks are often subject to what the complaint calls “food fraud” due to the popularity of the flavor and the inability of natural vanilla supplies to meet commercial demand.
One of the ways of imitating vanilla was through the use of vanillin. However, the complaint says, “only 1-2% of vanillin in commercial use is vanillin obtained from the vanilla plant…” Even where vanillins originate with natural ingredients, the complaint claims they are processed in ways that lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to classify them as synthetic.
The complaint says that “if a product is represented as being characterized by vanilla yet also contains non-vanilla vanillin, the label and packaging must declare the presence of vanillin and identify it as an artificial flavor.”
The complaint alleges that the “vanilla” label on the package is misleading because it gives consumers the impression that they contain enough vanilla to flavor the product and that vanilla is the exclusive source of the flavor. However, the ingredient list flatly contradicts this impression by admitting that the only vanilla flavoring in the product is artificial vanilla flavor.
The product also contains caramel color, which the complaint alleges is there to create a darker color making the consumer less likely to question that the products contain real vanilla.
According to the complaint, the proportion of real vanilla used to flavor the product “has a material bearing on price and consumer acceptance of the Products” because real vanilla is more expensive and natural flavors are more valued by consumers.