Class Action Alleges Vanilla Soy Milk Is Deceptively Labeled
On June 26, 2020, Sheehan & Associates, P.C., on behalf of a proposed class of Plaintiffs, filed a class action lawsuit against Hain Celestial Group, Inc. asserting that the company had deceptively labeled its “Organic Plus Vanilla Soymilk” because it (1) contained non-vanilla flavor and (2) disguised sugar as “Evaporated Cane Juice.”
On the first claim, Plaintiffs alleged that the ingredient list’s disclosure of “Vanilla Flavor With Other Natural Flavors” indicated that the product contained non-vanilla flavor. Furthermore, they alleged that this non-vanilla flavor contained vanillin. Additionally, they alleged that because vanilla is governed by standards of identity (see 21 CFR 169.175 (“Vanilla extract); 21 CFR 169.177 (“Vanilla flavoring”)), the general flavoring rules of 21 CFR 101.22, including the designation of “with other natural flavors,” do not apply and any non-vanilla flavor must be disclosed as an artificial flavor.
As to the sugar claim, Plaintiffs alleged that consumers expect an ingredient with the term “juice” to be derived from a consumable fruit or vegetable, that “evaporated cane juice” “had little in common” with this definition of juice because it was “another name for . . . ‘sugar,”’ and that the choice of labeling resulted in the misleading impression that the product was a better nutritional choice than comparable products.
Plaintiffs’ vanilla claim echo a plethora of similar class-action lawsuits, many dozen of which have been filed by the same firm. However, unlike some of these cases, including one that was recently dismissed, Plaintiffs did not solely rely on the declaration of “natural flavors” in the ingredient list to conclude that a non-vanilla flavor was present, but rather specifically allege that the challenged product contains vanillin.