Misleading Ingredient in Chobani’s Greek Yogurt

Plaintiffs currently filing a class action lawsuit allege that the labeling on Chobani’s Greek yogurt misleads consumers and violates FDA regulations. A similar class action lawsuit was dismissed by a federal court in California in early 2014. The complaint, filed in New York federal court, highlights the various ways that the plaintiffs scrutinize beverage and food labels, claiming that the product is not as natural or as healthy as advertised.

Among other things, plaintiffs allege that the company lists “evaporated cane juice” on the product instead of “sugar,” wrongfully refers to its product as “Greek,” and notes “0%” on its label without context. Although citing evaporated cane juice may not seem important to some, according to the plaintiffs, this is not the usual or common name, and the company should simply state that the product contains sugar. As a result, plaintiffs accuse Chobani of mislabeling the yogurt, a violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Chobani is also allegedly misleading consumers by claiming “0%” on the product’s label but failing to state to what the “0%” refers. Upon further examination, the figure appears to pertain to the percentage of milk fat in the yogurt, but plaintiffs accuse Chobani of attempting to copy the zero-calorie marketing efforts of diet products such as Pepsi Max and Coke Zero by not clearly displaying the ingredient that is reportedly 0%.

Additionally, plaintiffs contend that the Greek yogurt should not be labeled as “Greek.” While Chobani’s website does explain the qualities of a Greek yogurt as well as the manufacturing process needed to produce such a food, plaintiffs argue that the name of the company is derived from the Turkish language, that the yogurt is not made by Greek nationals, and is produced in New York, not Greece. Plaintiffs also point out that the company’s founder and CEO lives in New York, the state in which the Chobani’s first plant was opened.

The filing of these class action lawsuits against Chobani is evidence of the consumers’ willingness to scrutinize food labels and pursue claims against manufacturers for allegedly misleading consumers and violating FDA regulations. Manufacturers of food and beverage products must carefully examine their labels to ensure that they comply with the FDA’s guidelines and that a reasonable consumer will not be misled by the product’s ingredient information. Additionally, all known risks and side effects should be clearly displayed to inform the consumer of any potential complications.

On product labels that make substantial claims, it is also important to ensure that there is evidence to back up these claims if consumers request proof. In addition, all questions that arise pertaining to the ingredients, benefits, risks, or side effects should be answerable. Regardless of whether label misprints or errors are present, a manufacturer must be ready to defend its products should consumers have questions. On the other hand, consumers do have the right to remain thoroughly informed and have the legal option to pursue claims against manufacturers if they believe that they were wrongfully harmed, inadequately warned, or purposefully misled.