When ingredient prices rise, so does food fraud

The New York grocer Wegmans became embroiled in a lawsuit about the legitimacy of its vanilla-based products, a dilemma common for food companies.


October 11, 2019

Two angry ice cream eaters filed a class-action lawsuit against the New York-based Wegmans Food Markets for allegedly selling vanilla ice cream … that doesn’t actually contain vanilla.

You’ve been soft served 

The plaintiffs claimed that Wegmans misled them by labeling its premium-priced ice cream as simply “vanilla,” while listing “natural vanilla flavor” among its ingredients. 

The catch-all phrase “natural flavors” means several substances have been combined to replicate another ingredient — typically an expensive one. And though they’re returning to earth, vanilla prices are still high

Wegmans says its labeling complies with industry standards. But other companies have found ways to be extra clear: Ben & Jerry’s lists “vanilla extract from vanilla bean seeds” among its ingredients. 

It’s not just vanilla vitriol, either 

Last year, a woman filed a similar lawsuit against Canada Dry’s parent company, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, which included the tagline “made with real ginger” on its cans.

But despite its lofty label, Canada Dry’s ginger ale was also made with those nefarious “natural flavors” — and the plaintiff claimed she was duped into drinking a product with no health benefits.

It’s not just supermarket aisles that are rife with misleading products. Falsely labeled packages are also a big problem for the seafood industry, which has seen high-ticket items like Alaskan halibut and bluefin tuna replaced by cheaper look-alikes.

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