Ill. Judge Trims Fraud Suit Targeting Barilla Pasta Sauce (subscription to Law360 required)

  • A proposed class action lawsuit filed against Barilla America Inc. in October 2018 alleges that consumers in Illinois, California, and Kansas were misled by the claim “no preservatives” on jars of pasta sauce containing citric acid as an ingredient.  The plaintiffs assert that Barilla’s pasta sauce is deceptively labeled as containing no preservatives because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes citric acid as a preservative that delays rancidity, prevents spoilage, and slows certain other changes in food.
  • On December 10, 2021 a federal judge in the Northern District of Illinois ruled from the bench that consumer fraud, breach of warranty, and unjust enrichment claims can proceed against Barilla over the allegedly deceptive labeling.  The judge ruled against the plaintiffs on implied warranty and negligent misrepresentation claims, although leave to amend was granted.  The judge also denied injunctive relief, finding that plaintiffs’ future harm is conditional, being dependent on their choosing to purchase the pasta sauce again as opposed to purchasing a different brand or making their own pasta sauce.
  • As discussed here, a similar false advertising lawsuit brought by the same attorneys was dismissed last year against Kraft Heinz Food Co. concerning its Capri Sun juice products containing citric acid.  The more succinct “no preservatives” labeling on the pasta sauce, however, may be distinguished from “no artificial preservatives” labeling on Capri Sun where the plaintiffs’ case was doomed by problems drawing a connection between the common industry practice used to artificially manufacture citric acid and the actual practice used by Kraft.