Many customers do check the ingredients in products they buy, to see which types of a certain item are the healthiest. The complaint for this class action alleges that Trader Joe’s Company misleads customers with the ingredient panel for its corn flakes, because it lists “evaporated cane juice” instead of “sugar.”
The class for this action is all consumers in New York and the other forty-nine states, presumably those who bought the Trader Joe’s corn flake cereal with the words “evaporated cane juice” listed in place of “sugar.”
The box for the Trader Joe’s cereal gives an impression of health, showing the corn flakes served with fresh raspberries and blueberries. The front says, “Organic” and “Fat Free” and “Excellent Source of 6 B Vitamins.” But the complaint alleges that the healthful impression is part of the deception.
The complaint claims, “Where an ingredient contains the term “juice,” consumers expect that ingredient to be derived from a consumable fruit or vegetable.” This gives many consumers the impression that that ingredient is healthy: “Fruits and vegetables are consumed for their nutritive value as they contain many vitamins and minerals.”
Under federal law, “juice” is defined as “the aqueous liquid expressed or extracted from one or more fruits or vegetables, purees of the edible portions of one or more fruits or vegetables, or any concentrates of such liquid or puree.”
The complaint quotes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as saying that the term “evaporated cane juice” “suggest[s] that the ingredients are made from or contain fruit or vegetable ‘juice’…” The FDA concluded that this can mislead consumers.
Consumer are therefore misled, the complaint says, into buying a product where the second most predominant ingredient is added sugar. The concealing of sugar in this way, along with the healthy representations on the box, “results in the impression that the Products are a better nutritional choice than other comparable products which truthfully and non-deceptively identify ‘sugar’ as their second most predominant ingredient.”
According to the complaint, many consumers “are paying more attention to the ingredients contained in the foods they eat and are shunning excess, added sugars due to their association and contribution to ailments and conditions like coronary heart disease, obesity and diabetes.”
The deception is that much worse, the complaint says, because Trader Joe’s “is a grocery store with a reputation for selling health food products of high nutritional quality.”
The complaint alleges that Trader Joe’s has violated state consumer protection laws and has committed negligent misrepresentation, breaches of warranty under federal laws, and fraud, among other things.