Consumers are now willing to pay more for food that is all natural and not artificially flavored. Because of this, the complaint claims, Trader Joe’s hid the fact that its gummies were artificially flavored and did not label them as California or federal law requires.
The class for this action is all US citizens who bought the product at issue, for personal use and not for resale, between January 1, 2012 and the time the class is certified. A California subclass has also been proposed.
The candy in question is an assortment of sour gummies in lemon, lime, grapefruit, and tangerine flavors. According to the complaint, Trader Joe’s advertises its house-brand products as containing “YES quality ingredients” and “NO artificial flavors.” Its advertising also claimes that “We use only ‘natural flavors’ in our products…”
The complaint reproduces an image of the front of the candy bag, which bears the words “Sour Gummies,” “Ts,” “Js,” and the four flavor names. According to the complaint, under California law, the identification of the flavors on the label without qualifying language indicates that the flavors are natural.
However, the complaint alleges that the candies are flavored with d-l malic acid, to reinforce the fruit flavors and produce the sour flavor. The d-l malic acid is a synthetic, chemical addition and is not natural. The complaint claims this is a problem for several reasons.
First, California law requires that if an artificial flavoring ingredient simulates and reinforces a food’s characterizing flavors, the front and back labels of the food must note that it is artificially flavored.
Second, the complaint claims that the ingredients list should include “d-l malic acid” and not the generic “malic acid.” Malic acid comes in two types: l-malic acid, which is found in some fruits and vegetables and is natural; and d-l malic acid is not. In fact, d-l malic acid is made from benzene or butane, the complaint claims, which are components of gasoline and lighter fluid, respectively.
Third, if a food does not include any of the natural fruit that makes up its fruit flavors, then it must disclose on its front label that the product is “flavored.”
Among the laws the product violates, the complaint cites California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, its Unfair Competition Law, and its False Advertising Law, as well as breaches of warranty and negligent misrepresentation.