On Thursday, The Kraft Heinz Company removed a putative class action suit against it claiming that the company falsely advertises its coffee as 100% pure when it contains methylene chloride to the District of Columbia District Court. The company claimed the putative class and the amount in controversy are large enough for the case to be heard in the District Court.
The lawsuit was filed by the Clean Label Project Foundation (CLP) in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia in late August. The company asked for a jury trial, a declaration that the defendant’s conduct violated the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act, an order requiring the company to stop its alleged false advertising, pay penalties and punitive damages, and provide corrective advertising to residents of DC.
The complaint purported that the defendant’s 29.3 oz Maxwell House decaffeinated original roast coffee products, although they claim on labeling to be “100% Arabica Coffee” and “high-quality” were found to have methylene chloride in tests done by the plaintiff. The plaintiffs claimed that D.C. consumers “are increasingly considering how their food and beverages are processed and prepared,” and that the majority of consumers wanted to buy food that is clean, local, fresh, and healthy.
The plaintiff said this is particularly true for decaffeinated coffee blends, which appeal more to “the elderly, pregnant women, and those with chronic medical conditions.” It claims the defendant knows this is the case for the product’s typical consumer demographic and thus advertises a pure product, even though that is purportedly not accurate. It also claims the company either knew or should have known that its products were not 100% coffee.
According to the complaint, Methylene Chloride, which is “probably carcinogenic to humans, in products is prohibited by DC code. It is used in paint removers and degreasing. The foundation also reported that similar analysis of coffee in other brands did not find detectable levels of the substance. The Clean Label Project Foundation also said that in a study it funded they found 63 percent of coffee drinkers said they would switch brands if the coffee they used was found to have “residual solvents” which were known to cause cancer.