That is meals for thought.
New York’s “vanilla vigilante” lawyer — famed for suing meals and beverage manufacturers over misleading labeling — says there are a number of common merchandise that consumers ought to look carefully at in the event that they need to keep away from being scammed on the grocery store.
Spencer Sheehan hit headlines for launching a $5 million class motion lawsuit towards Kellogg’s in 2021, claiming their Complete Grain Frosted Strawberry Pop-Tarts contained an insufficient quantity of precise strawberries.
Whereas that go well with was dismissed, the Nice Neck, Lengthy Island-based litigator has additionally gone after different grocery store staples, together with Snapple, saying their “all-natural” fruit drinks comprise surprisingly little precise juice.
“Simply watch out — as a result of corporations are attempting to trick individuals,” Sheehan, 44, instructed The Put up in a brand new interview.
Learn on for Sheehan’s checklist of the worst offenders within the grocery aisles nationwide:
Breads and juices
The authorized eagle believes that probably the most misleading packages are sometimes on breads and fruit juices — and he’s urging shoppers to not fall for fancy phrases and pictures.
“Many breads within the bread aisle of the grocery store will comprise labels and names comparable to ‘multigrain,’ ‘stone grain,’ ‘oat grain’ and ‘hearty wheat’ when they’re really solely refined grains,” Sheehan stated within the go well with.
Earlier this yr, Sheehan additionally represented a peeved client in submitting a lawsuit towards Bimbo Bakehouse, accusing the corporate of falsely branding Cheesecake Manufacturing unit-licensed bread as complete grain.
“Regardless of the labeling of the Product as ‘Brown Bread,’ with a darkish brown coloration … the Product will not be made from primarily complete grains,” the go well with learn.
That case was additionally dismissed by a decide, however Sheehan insists that many different bread manufacturers are making bogus claims.
In the meantime, the legal professional alleges that “fruit” juice corporations are one other egregious offender in terms of doubtful labeling.
“Many merchandise within the juice aisle will probably be described as ‘mango,’ ‘ardour fruit’ or ‘pineapple’ when they’re primarily white grape juice or apple juice with only a drop of the flavour of mango or ardour fruit or pineapple,” Sheehan insisted.
‘Vanilla’ flavored merchandise
Sheehan has beforehand been dubbed New York’s “vanilla vigilante” for submitting a number of fits towards corporations that declare that their merchandise comprise actual vanilla.
Final yr, Sheehan’s regulation agency reached a $2.6 million settlement with Blue Diamond over a proposed federal class motion concerning the firm’s Almond Breeze vanilla-flavored milk and yogurt merchandise.
In the meantime, he has additionally engaged Chobani in litigation over two of its vanilla-flavored yogurts.
In court docket papers filed in New York State’s Supreme Court docket final yr, Sheehan asserted that the phrase “vanilla” was deceptive on each Chobani’s oat-based vanilla and vanilla-strawberry yogurts.
“The flavoring used to simulate the … characterizing vanilla taste will not be from vanilla beans, [but] from synthetic petrochemical sources and, made by way of synthetic processes,” he insisted.
The Put up contacted the yogurt firm for remark.
“Most issues which have massive letters telling you that they’re vanilla don’t really comprise any vanilla,” Sheehan instructed The Put up.
In actual fact, Sheehan has filed greater than 100 lawsuits towards meals corporations claiming they deceived shoppers with claims that their merchandise comprise actual vanilla.
America’s favourite snacks
Sheehan has additionally focused the makers of a few of America’s favourite snacks in his lengthy checklist of lawsuits.
He has filed a go well with towards the markers of Trace of Lime Tostitos, claiming that there’s an absence of lime within the common corn chip and that their labeling is duplicitous.
The lawyer has moreover taken on Keebler, saying their fudge-mint cookies lack actual fudge and mint.
Trident has additionally been in Sheehan’s sights, with the lawyer claiming in court docket docs that their Unique Taste gum comprises no actual mint, regardless of having an image of the plant on the quilt of its packaging.
In the meantime, The Put up reported in 2021 that Sheehan represented a Wisconsin lady after she alleged that pizza-flavored Bagel Bites don’t really use actual cheese.
The go well with alleges that the lunchtime staple’s producer, Kraft Heinz, is mendacity to shoppers by together with the “actual” dairy stamp on its merchandise.
Sheehan has additionally sued Conagra Manufacturers over its declare that their common Snack Pack Chocolate Fudge Pudding is “made with actual milk.”
The legal professional filed the go well with saying not one of the elements meet the FDA’s definition of milk as a result of they don’t comprise sufficient milkfat.
Muesli, granola and vitality bars
New York Metropolis nutritionist Dr. Lisa Younger agrees that the labels on grocery store staples may be significantly pernicious.
She instructed The Put up that muesli, granola and energy-bar merchandise are additionally among the many worst offenders.
Younger stated such meals objects are sometimes marketed as “higher for you merchandise,” duping consumers into believing they’ve well being advantages. Due to this fact, shoppers should not solely extra more likely to buy the objects, they’re additionally extra more likely to devour them in larger portions.
In the meantime, each Sheehan and Younger agree that it’s simple for consumers to fall for misleading labeling.
“After I’m purchasing, I don’t have a whole lot of time,” Sheehan admits, saying he typically has to cease himself from believing claims on the entrance of an aesthetically pleasing package deal. “I’m in a rush and I’m doing two issues directly.”
Younger stated a lot of these extremely processed packaged meals objects are additionally cheaper to buy than natural choices, which may be significantly problematic for households struggling to make ends meet amid astronomical inflation.
What to do when a field of Strawberry Pop-Tarts is cheaper than a punnet of precise strawberries?
Sheehan and Younger stated it’s necessary for consumers to easily be skeptical each time they enter the grocery store — and flip the field or bottle over to scan the elements checklist and any effective print.
“Pay no consideration in any way to claims [made by manufacturers],” Younger implored. “The No. 1 factor you need to have a look at is the elements checklist — and the order of the elements. That’s so necessary.”
Nonetheless, Sheehan and Younger aren’t sounding the alarm of “BS” meals labels in a bid to disgrace consumers about their consuming habits or make them really feel additional nervousness and guilt about their purchases.
They merely need to increase consciousness about how pervasive the doubtful claims may be.
“It’s okay to have a deal with, it’s okay to have one thing enjoyable,” Younger declared — simply so long as you understand what’s inside it.