Source - Food & Beverage Litigation Update | Issue 779

Court Dismisses Bagel Bites Labeling Lawsuit

An Illinois federal court has granted Kraft Heinz Foods Co.’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging the labeling noting the inclusion of mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce in Bagel Bites is misleading. Jackson v. Kraft Heinz Foods Co., No. 21-5219 (N.D. Ill., E. Div., entered August 3, 2022). “Central to all of Plaintiff s claims is the notion that the Product’s label misleads consumers by representing that the Product contains ‘mozzarella cheese. REAL cheese,’ and ‘tomato sauce,’ but omitting that it contains additives,” the court found. “However, a product that says it contains mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce when the Product does, in fact, contain mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce is not misleading to the reasonable consumer simply because its label does not list its additives.”

The court also noted that the standard of a “reasonable consumer” can vary according to the product at issue. “[W]hile Plaintiff contends reasonable consumers do not expect starch, whey, and nonfat milk when promised ‘mozzarella’ and ‘REAL’ cheese (or thickening agents when promised ‘tomato sauce’), Plaintiff alleges nothing of what reasonable consumers of the Product, i.e. Bagel Bites, expect. [] Expectations differ when one purchases mozzarella cheese or tomato sauce alone, from when one purchases a frozen bagel pizza snack. It seems that when purchasing ‘junk food’ (or ‘processed food,’ to use Defendant’s term) like frozen pizza, the reasonable consumer would expect at least some ‘junk’ (or ‘processed’) ingredients. At the very least, any consumer would at first glance of the Product know that it is not pure mozzarella cheese or tomato sauce, but a frozen pizza bagel containing various other ingredients. To suggest that a reasonable consumer expects pure (i.e. without additives) mozzarella or tomato sauce when buying a bite-size frozen bagel pizza ignores the true nature of the product as a sum of pizza ingredients, including but not limited to, mozzarella and tomato sauce. [] Such a suggestion is a fanciful interpretation of the Product’s label that obfuscates who the real consumers are and how they would understand and react to the label. [] Plaintiff has not plausibly pleaded the front label likely leads a significant portion of reasonable consumers to falsely believe something that the back label belies.”

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