This is one of a number of class actions filed in the past year or so challenging the flavor designation of certain ice creams as “vanilla.” Laws on the flavoring and labeling of ice creams are different than for the flavoring and labeling of other foods. This class action brings suit against Walmart, Inc. for its Great Value brand Vanilla Bean ice cream.
The class for this action is all consumer in all fifty states who, presumably, bought the Great Value Vanilla Ice Cream with actionable representations.
The Great Value ice cream bears on its front label the designation “Vanilla Bean.” According to the complaint this leads consumers to believe that the only flavoring ingredients are vanilla extract and vanilla beans.
Vanilla is a perennially popular flavor for ice cream, either alone or with other ingredients (such as chocolate chips) stirred into it. Because demand is so high, the complaint says, manufacturers of vanilla-flavored products cannot obtain enough real vanilla to meet it and are led to find ways to imitate vanilla’s flavor and appearance.
The complaint asserts that “vanilla is the only flavor with its own standard of identity” and “its labeling is controlled not by the general flavoring regulations.” If a product is characterized as vanilla but contains non-vanilla vanillin, “the labeling and packaging must declare the presence of vanillin and identify it as an artificial flavor.”
Also, in the labeling of ice cream, “vanillin from non-vanilla sources [is] not a natural flavor even when vanillin is produced through a natural process (fermentation), such that it is properly designated as ‘vanillin derived naturally through fermentation.’” The complaint further says, “These natural processes may include fermentation but when high heat and high pressure [are] used, the FDA considers this to be a synthetic method of obtaining a flavor.
In labeling ice cream, the complaint says, the designation “natural flavor” “has a different meaning and usage and refers only to the natural characterizing flavor.”
The complaint quotes the product’s ingredient label, which lists “Natural Flavors (with Vanilla Extract)” and “Vanilla Bean Specs” among other things. According to the complaint, this means that vanilla extract is part of the flavoring but not all of it. In other words, the product is not flavored exclusively with vanilla. Furthermore, the complaint alleges that the “vanilla bean spec[k]s” are from exhausted vanilla beans and should be labeled as such.
The complaint says, “The Products are misleading because they do not contain the amount, type and percentage of vanilla as a component of the flavoring in the product which is required and consistent with consumer expectations. The ice cream is not exclusively flavored with vanilla, the complaint says, and should not be labeled the way it is.