In a class-action complaint filed in the Southern District of New York on Saturday, Erin Marcinelli claimed that frozen pizza bagels known as Bagel Bites sold by Kraft Heinz Food Company claim to be made with “real mozzarella cheese” when they contain instead a blend of cheese, which includes mozzarella cheese, skim milk, and modified food starch.
The complaint purported that the packaging and other representations of the Bagel Bites made several false claims, including: “‘Made With Real Cheese,’ the ‘Real’ dairy seal, ‘Mozzarella Cheese,’ ‘Mini Bagels With Mozzarella Cheese and Tomato Sauce,’ ‘Kosher Dairy’ and ‘7g of Protein Per Serving.’” The plaintiff also argued that consumers would understand the word “pizza” to mean that the item would include tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.
Although the front of the packaging purportedly leads a consumer to believe that the product contains real cheese, the ingredients list on the back explains that the product includes “cheese blend (part-skim mozzarella cheese [part-skim milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes], modified food starch, skim milk).”
Marcinelli purported that the cheese blend should be listed as “imitation mozzarella cheese” and that because it was not, she and other consumers were misled and paid a higher price for the item than they would have if they knew its contents.
Marcinelli alleged that consumers value real mozzarella cheese in their pizza because it has a soft texture, tangy taste, and maintains high protein while remaining low in calories and sodium, which the complaint explains is unique to mozzarella compared to other cheese. The complaint alleged that consumers purchasing the Bagel Bites would be expecting real mozzarella cheese rather than the cheese blend.
The complaint cited the “Real” seal on the Bagel Bites box, which reportedly should show consumers that the item meets specific standards and definitions of food products and, according to the complaint “is not permitted, according to the (National Milk Producers Federation), where a cheese ingredient uses extenders and fillers such as modified food starch.”
Saturday’s complaint listed charges of unjust enrichment, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and breaches of warranty and New York business laws. The plaintiff asked for injunctive relief and monetary damages for the class consisting of those who purchased Bagel Bites.
The plaintiff is represented by Spencer Sheehan, a law firm that has represented multiple other plaintiffs in similar suits alleging that companies mislead consumers on their food packaging. Some of the lawsuits also relate to other cheese products and a large percentage contain allegations of artificial vanilla.