Packaging should not promise consumers more than it delivers. Laws like California’s Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (CFPLA), a part of its Business & Professions Code, are meant to protect consumers against “deception or misrepresentation.” But the complaint for this class action claims that Unilever United States packages its Knorr Pasta Sides Alfredo product with forty percent empty space, misleading customers as to how much product they are getting for their money.
The class for this action is all California residents who made retail purchases of Knorr Pasta Sides products with nonfunctional slack fill, as defined by California Business & Professions Code § 12606.2, during the applicable limitations period up to the final judgment of this action.
The CFPLA says, “No food containers shall be made, formed, or filled as to be misleading.” It also says, “A container that does not allow the consumer to fully view its contents shall be considered to be filled as to be misleading if it contains nonfunctional slack fill.”
What is nonfunctional slack fill? It’s empty space that is left in a package that does not serve a purpose.
There are reasons why packaging may contain empty space. The CFPLA identifies six of them:
According to the complaint, none of the above applies to the Knorr Alfredo packages. The space is not needed to protect the product, it is not involved in preparing the project, it does not contain a reusable container, and so on. Still, the complaint says, the packages contain as much as 40% empty space, or nonfunctional slack fill which does not seem to be justified in any manner.
In addition to the CFPLA, the complaint also cites California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act, forbidding misrepresentation, and the California Civil Code, on false advertising.