Frito-Lay’s ‘Hint of Lime’ Chips Have No Lime, Buyers Say (subscription to Law360 required)

  • A proposed class action filed against Frito-Lay on August 25, 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California claims that the company’s “Hint of Lime” Tostitos tortilla chips are misleadingly labeled because they contain only “Natural Flavors” and not appreciable amounts of whole lime juice.  The claims are based on alleged violations of California consumer protection laws, federal warranty law, federal trade law, and unjust enrichment.
  • As we previously reported, Frito-Lay faces similar claims in Illinois that likewise hinge largely on the product containing an image of a lime and the statement “Here’s Another Hint – Squeeze in More Flavor With Some Salsa,” which allegedly imply that lime has been squeezed into the product.  Both lawsuits also make much of the fact that a statement, “Flavored Tortilla Chips,” which the plaintiffs characterize as a “disclaimer,” appears at the bottom corner where crumpling of the package hides it from view.  Under federal flavor labeling regulation, however, a lime flavored product can be flavored only with “natural flavoring” derived from lime with no disclaimer required where the product is not purported to contain lime for nutritive value (e.g., vitamin C content).
  • The California lawsuit additionally alleges that after receiving notice of the plaintiffs’ allegations, Frito-Lay “engaged in label changes on its website” by adding the parenthetical, “including natural lime flavor,” after “Natural Flavor” in the list of ingredients.  The potential significance of this new factual allegation is not elucidated in the complaint.
  • Keller and Heckman will continue to monitor and report on the outcome of these “Hint of Lime” cases as well as the many other flavor labeling challenges brought by plaintiffs’ lawyers claiming harm to consumers from allegedly misleading food labeling.