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Starbucks Mislabeling of Sour Gummies to Imply “Natural” Ingredients Class Action

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Starbucks Sour Gummies

This complaint claims that Starbucks Corporation sells gummy candies that are presented as naturally-flavored, when in reality they contain the synthetic ingredient fumaric acid.

The Nationwide Class for this action is all US citizens who bought the product in their state of citizenship between January 1, 2012 and the certification of the class, for personal use and not for resale. The California Subclass is all California citizens from the above class who bought the products in California. 

Starbucks runs a health and wellness campaign, the complaint alleges, that says that it listens to its customers and “continues to evolve its health and wellness options influenced by customer feedback.” The complaint quotes the company’s Director of Retail Brand Partnerships as saying, “We know customers are snacking on the go and looking for snacks that are healthier.” 

The complaint points to a Forbes Magazine article saying that consumers today want foods with fewer artificial ingredients and additives and are willing to pay more for it.

The gummies at issue, Starbucks private-label candies, come in a clear package marked “Sour Gummies.” The front label claims that the package contains apple, watermelon, tangerine, and lemon-flavored sour candies. Under California law, the complaint says, identifying these flavors by name on the label without qualifying language is equivalent to claiming that the product contains only natural flavors.

However, the complaint alleges that the gummies contain fumaric acid, a synthetic petrochemical substance that creates the overall sour flavor and reinforces the fruit flavors. According to the complaint, Starbucks should be acknowledging the artificial flavor on the label.

California law says that products containing artificial flavors that simulate and reinforce the products’ characterizing flavors must note on the front label that they contain artificial flavors. According to California law, omitting this information is equivalent to telling consumers that the product is flavored only with natural juices or flavors. 

Also, according to the complaint, “California law, incorporating US Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act regulations by reference, further requires that a food’s label accurately describe the nature of the food product and its characterizing flavors.” The complaint says that this includes the “sour” flavor and that the product should therefore state that the product was artificially flavored. 

The complaint claims breaches of warranties, negligent and intention misrepresentations and omissions, and violations of consumer protection laws, including the laws of California.

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