Grated Parmesan Cheese Companies Can’t Escape Food Fraud Litigation on Excess Cellulose
Grated parmesan companies Kraft Heinz Co. and SuperValu Inc. have not been able to end multidistrict litigation that began in 2016, alleging food fraud for excess cellulose as an anticaking agent. While the defendants argue that the cellulose acted as an anticaking agent, plaintiffs allege that the cellulose was being used as a filler in the cheese marketed as “100% cheese.”
A federal district court judge in Illinois has denied Plaintiff’s attempt to amend their complaints to reintroduce previously dismissed defendants, Publix and Target/ICCO. The judge also dismissed state law claims requiring plaintiffs to demonstrate that they relied on misrepresentations to make their purchases because of the plaintiff’s deficient pleadings. However, other state consumer protection claims that do not have the same reliance requirement have been allowed to proceed because the pleadings were sufficient for such claims.
While FDA’s grated cheese regulation allows for companies to add cellulose as an anticaking agent in cheese to prevent clumping, using more than the minimum amount required to achieve the anticaking effect presents the possibility of a food fraud allegation.