NEW YORK: A lawsuit accusing food companies and retailers of hoodwinking consumers over claims of "100 per cent" grated parmesan cheese took a major hit on Thursday (Aug 24) when a US federal judge dismissed the complaint.
Plaintiffs had argued that food and shopping giants including Wal-Mart Stores, Kraft Heinz and Target had misrepresented the popular salty Italian cheese as "100 per cent" parmesan.
The claim on the label, according to the litigation, was undermined by the reality that the product contained between four and eight percent of cellulose, an organic polymer added to prevent caking in cheese.
Marc Moschetta, a plaintiff in a suit against Wal-Mart in California, said in his claim he would not have bought the cheese "at a premium price, and/or would have paid significantly less for the product, had he known that the '100 per cent' representation is false."
But US District Judge Gary Feinerman, ruling on a series of class action cases consolidated into his Chicago court room, wasn't buying it.
The packaging was "ambiguous" and not "affirmative misrepresentations" as plaintiffs had alleged, Feinerman wrote in a 25-page ruling.
"Although '100 per cent Grated Parmesan Cheese' might be interpreted as saying that the product is 100 per cent cheese and nothing else, it also might be an assertion that 100 per cent of the cheese is parmesan cheese, or that the parmesan cheese is 100 per cent grated."
"Reasonable consumers would thus need more information before concluding that the labels promised cheese and nothing more, and they would know exactly where to look to investigate - the ingredient list," the judge added.
Because the ingredient list included cellulose, the labelling of the product on the whole is "not deceptive," he concluded.
Feinerman granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint, but permitted plaintiffs to amend their suit by Sep 14. If they fail to do so, the case will be dismissed.