On Wednesday, plaintiff Zilphia Howze filed a class action complaint in the Western District of New York against Mondelēz Global LLC. The lawsuit alleges that the advertisement of one of the defendant’s shortbread cookie products is misleading.
The defendant produces and markets shortbread cookies under the brand Lorna Doone. The complaint cites multiple expert opinions which all note that in shortbread cookies, “the presence of butter is essential,” and expected. Howze explains that when consumers see a food that is identified as shortbread, they believe it will contain at least some butter.
According to the complaint, food companies often attempt to replace butter with what Howze believes are lower quality substitutes such as vegetable oils, despite these oils being unable to provide the same “structural, organoleptic, nutritional, and sensory properties.” Companies often make this substitution to conserve costs. This substitution of butter for vegetable oil is one that the defendant has allegedly made, as their ingredient list does not show butter, but rather canola and palm oil.
In order to compensate for the butter flavor that is common to shortbread cookies, the defendant uses artificial flavor. The use of artificial flavors is required to be disclosed on the front labeling of the product. However, the defendant’s product is advertised as a “Shortbread Cookie” despite the lack of butter and presence of artificial flavoring.
Howze asserts that “consumers expect shortbread cookies, especially where the labeling invokes Scottish themes, through the Lorna Doone name and plaid packaging, to contain butter,” and that the defendant’s misrepresentation and omissions render the product both false and misleading.
The complaint cites violations of the New York General Business Law and State Consumer Fraud Acts, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and unjust enrichment. Howze is seeking class certification, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, monetary, statutory, and punitive damages, litigation fees, and any other relief deemed proper by the Court.
The plaintiff is represented by Sheehan & Associates, P.C.