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A Florida woman is accusing Kraft Heinz of misleading advertising based on the time it takes to make a single serving of microwaveable mac and cheese.
While the company marketed Velveeta crusts and cheese as ready-to-eat in “3/2” minutes, Amanda Ramirez said that’s the amount of time each cup needs to be microwaved, and the actual preparation process is until the water is mixed in. The cheese sauce thickens, taking longer (she doesn’t say how long). .
A 15-page class action lawsuit filed earlier this month alleges that parent company Kraft Heinz would have sold more of the product and at a higher price if it had not misled consumers about the cooking time of the pasta.
“As a result of the false and misleading representations, the Product is sold at a premium price of no less than approximately $10.99 per eight 2.39 ounce cups, higher than similar products that are misrepresented, exclusive of taxes and sales, and higher than would be sold because of the absence of misleading statements and omissions,” – says the lawsuit.
Ramirez’s legal team says she is like many consumers who are “trying to stretch their money as much as possible when shopping for groceries” and chose Velveeta over other similar products because of the prep time promised on its label. “If he knew the truth” he wouldn’t have bought it, they say.
The lawsuit seeks more than $5 million in damages and covers consumers who bought the mac and cheese cups during the statute of limitations in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, New Mexico, Alaska, Iowa, Tennessee and Virginia. period. He says he has more than 100 such customers as the product is sold online and in stores nationwide.
In a statement to NPR, Kraft Heinz called the lawsuit “serious” and said it would “vigorously defend against the allegations in the complaint.”
While some are quick to dismiss the case as naive, Ramirez’s team says it’s important to hold corporations accountable in all their forms. Will Wright, one of Ramirez’s attorneys, told NPR via email that while he has some knowledge of the case, “false advertising is false advertising.”
“There are a lot of people who might think it’s just a bit of fibbing and not really an incident, and I understand that,” he said. “But we’re working for something better. We want corporate America to be straight and honest when it comes to advertising their products.”
He added: “My firm also represents cases that most clients find more compelling (arsenic in baby food, etc.), but we don’t feel that corporations should be allowed to do any kind of misleading advertising. Consumers deserve better.”
It’s a matter of trust, the lawsuit says
The lawsuit states that Velveeta’s claim that a cup of mac can be ready in 3 1/2 minutes is false and misleading because the microwave is only one of several necessary steps.
There are four steps listed in the instructions on the back of the package: Remove the lid and bag of cheese sauce, add water to the filling line and stir, microwave for 3 1/2 minutes, then add the cheese sauce as indicated in the instructions. “will grow thick on the feet.”
Therefore, the lawsuit says, the product cannot be ready to eat in just 210 seconds, and the label would only be accurate if it said the snack took 3 1/2 minutes to microwave.
He adds that Ramirez believed that Kraft Heinz represented his product accurately in part because it is “a trusted company known for high-quality products that are sold honestly to consumers.”
“Defendant’s product representations and omissions went beyond the specific representations on the packaging because they included additional labeling promises and commitments regarding quality, transparency and putting customers first,” it said.
In fact, the lawsuit says, Ramirez intends to repurchase the same product, “when he can do so with confidence that the capabilities, attributes, and/or composition of its offerings are relevant.”
Until then, he adds, he can’t rely on the labeling and marketing of not only this microwave, but other similar products that claim to be ready within a certain time frame, because he’s not sure if those representations are true. true.”
It’s unclear where Ramirez’s case will go from here. Wright believes the most likely scenario is that Kraft will file a motion to dismiss within a few weeks, and his team will oppose it. Then he says that “the judge will express his opinion on our case”.
Ramirez is working with an attorney known for his food marketing lawsuits
Another member of Ramirez’s legal team is New York-based plaintiff attorney Spencer Sheehan, who has filed hundreds of lawsuits in recent years for making misleading claims in food advertising and packaging.
As NPR reports, Sheehan files about three such lawsuits a week, and “his productivity has almost single-handedly led to a historic increase in the number of lawsuits against food and beverage companies—up more than 1,000% since 2008.” ”
Sheehan has filed more than 100 lawsuits alleging that products ranging from soda to soy milk marketed “vanilla” products that use synthetic vanilla or other flavors in addition to or instead of more expensive vanilla beans.
Some of his other recent cases include accusing Frito-Lay of not using enough real lime juice in its “lime signature” Tostito chips (status: pending) and claiming that Kellogg’s misrepresented the amount of fruit in its strawberry pop tarts (federal judge). fired earlier this year). Most of its cases are “voluntarily dismissed” — presumably settled — instead of going to trial.
As Sheehan told NPR last October: “I think I’ve always been the type to get angry. [and] I’ve never liked it when companies cheat people for small amounts that would be hard to pay back.”