September 26, 2021

Volume XI, Number 269

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September 24, 2021

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Rum Buyers Allege Package Makes False Age Claim

  • On September 9, 2021, a complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against Diageo North America.  The proposed class of plaintiffs allege that deceptive packaging led them to pay a premium for Ron Zacapa Centenario under the mistaken belief that the product contained only rum aged 23 years.

  • This new class action lawsuit is bolstered largely by the claim that statements on a cylinder that holds the bottle of rum constitute an age statement and that the age statement violates the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s (TTB) rule under 27 CFR 5.40(e) which permits a voluntary age statement in the form “__ years old,” with the blank to be filled in with the age of the youngest distilled spirits in the product.  The plaintiffs contend that a phrase “SISTEMA 23 SOLERA,” which appears in bold font, adjacent to the product name “Ron Zacapa Centenario” in the upper to middle part of the package, together with the words “Aged At A High Altitude in Oak Barrels,” which is part of a phrase printed in smaller font near the bottom of secondary packaging for the rum, imply that the product consists entirely of rum that has been aged 23 years but, in fact, is made by a solera method of stacking multiple layers of aging barrels on top of each other in a manner that results in a blend of rums aged from 6 to 23 years.

  • As a reminder to our readers, there is no private right of action to enforce federal labeling regulations, although such regulations, especially FDA’s food labeling regulations in Part 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, are frequently invoked in deceptive advertising lawsuits as evidence of consumer deception. 

© 2021 Keller and Heckman LLPNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 256
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About this Author

Keller and Heckman offers global food and drug services to its clients. Our comprehensive and extensive food and drug practice is one of the largest in the world. We promote, protect, and defend products made by the spectrum of industries regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Commission and Member States authorities in the European Union (EU) and similar authorities throughout the world. The products we help get to market include foods, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, veterinary products, dietary supplements, and cosmetics. In addition...

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