Quincy Steele, of Pennsylvania, and Jimmy Arriola, of New York, have filed a class action complaint against Wegmans Food Markets, claiming that the chain’s vanilla ice cream varieties don’t actually contain any real vanilla, but rather “natural flavorings” that are derived from “non-vanilla sources.”
“For decades, consumers have expected products containing vanilla ice cream to be exclusively flavored by real vanilla derived from the vanilla plant and contain a sufficient amount of vanilla to characterize the food,” alleges the complaint, which was shared with WIVB.
The complaint alleged that Wegmans vanilla ice cream, as well as many other ice cream varieties that contained the flavor, gives a “false impression” that it contains vanilla.
The lawsuit further argues that such ice cream products should be labeled “vanilla-flavored,” and that Wegmans’ vanilla ice cream products “are misleading because they do not contain the amount, type and percentage of vanilla as a component of the flavoring in the product which is required and consistent with consumer expectations.”
The Food and Drug Administration defines “natural flavor” or “natural flavoring” as products that contain the “flavoring constituents” derived or extracted from a variety of sources (plants, herbs, fruits, etc.) “whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”
“In cases where the flavor contains a solely natural flavor(s), the flavor shall be so labeled, e.g., strawberry flavor, banana flavor, or natural strawberry flavor,” reads the FDA’s code of federal regulations.
A representative for Wegmans was not immediately available to comment on the lawsuit. However, a spokesperson defended the chain’s labeling in an emailed statement provided to CBS News.
“We take great pride in the quality of all of our Wegmans Brand products. We believe that the labeling of our ice cream fully complies with all regulations and industry standards, and is not misleading in any way,” the statement read.
Wegmans, which operates over 90 stores in seven East Coast states, has defended its labeling amid the filing of a class-action lawsuit.
The class action lawsuit is seeking injunctive relief — i.e., having Wegmans rename its products and remove the products containing the previous packaging — as well as monetary damages and punitive damages.