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Ronzoni Specialty Pasta Excessive Slack Fill California Class Action

Ronzoni Garden Delight Pasta

This California class action takes up the issue of “slack fill” or too much empty space inside containers of consumer goods. The complaint alleges that Riviana Foods, Inc. and New World Pasta Company, which do business as Ronzoni, leave excessive slack fill in their boxes of specialty pasta. This is particularly deceptive, as the specialty boxes are the same size as its regular pasta boxes, but they contain 25% less pasta.

The class for this action is all persons who made retail purchases in California of Ronzoni’s Garden Delight, Gluten Free, Smart Taste or Super Greens pasta products, between July 12, 2015 and the date the class for this action is certified.

Ronzoni makes traditional, flour-based pastas and specialty pastas, such as gluten-free pastas and something called “Garden Delight.” The boxes for these specialty pastas are the same size as the boxes for the regular pastas, leading consumers to think they contain the same sixteen ounces of pasta. They don’t, the complaint claims; they contain about 25% less, or about twelve ounces. Because the boxes are nearly all opaque, consumers cannot readily see that there is less pasta in the specialty boxes.

Excessive slack fill violates federal and California laws. Federal law says that “a food shall be deemed to be misbranded if its container is so made, formed or filled as to be misleading.” A product with a container that does not allow the buyer to see its contents is deemed to be filled “to be misleading if it contains nonfunctional slack-fill.” California law on the slack-fill issue is similar.

Empty space in a container is not always nonfunctional. Federal law lists exceptions where extra room in a package may be unavoidable:

  • To protect the contents of the package.
  • To meet the requirements of the machines that enclose the package.
  • When settling happens during shipping and handling.
  • To meet the need for the package to provide a function, such as in the preparation of a food.
  • Where the food is packed in a reusable container that has its own value.
  • When the fill level cannot be increased or the size cannot be further reduced because a minimum size is necessary for required labeling or to discourage pilfering.

The complaint reviews each of these exceptions and claims that none of them apply to the specialty pastas.

The complaint claims that the companies have violated California’s Unfair Competition Law and Legal Remedies Act.

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