Wise Foods’ Cheddar Sour Cream Chips Accused of Hiding Artificial Flavors

Darlene Wallace filed a class-action complaint in the Southern District of New York on Monday alleging that Cheddar & Sour Cream flavored chips, produced by Wise Foods, Inc., mislead consumers by not prominently displaying that they include a “characterizing flavor” that is artificial.

The plaintiff claims that cheddar is one of the characterizing flavors in the chips, and that the cheddar flavor in the accused chips does not come directly from diacetyl, which is one of the items that causes the flavor of cheddar cheese. It is an “aroma compound” found in butter, yogurt, and some cheeses. Wallace said in the petition that “a scientist who developed a lexicon for description of cheddar cheese flavor included aromatics associated with diacetyl and milkfat/lactones as being representative of cheddar flavor.”

The label on the front of the bag has the word “flavored” which the plaintiff says does alert a customer that the flavor comes from more than simply the sour cream and cheddar cheese ingredients, but that it does not say that the product contains “artificial flavors.” The complaint clarifies that simply having artificial flavors should not require a notice on the front label of a food product, but that it should be included if the artificial flavor reinforces the characterizing flavor.

Wallace says the artificial flavor in the chips is associated with butter flavor, which “is known for enhancing and boosting” cheddar cheese flavors. The plaintiff explains that this could be a “legitimate-sounding yet meaningless rationale” to exclude a notice of artificial flavors on the main label of the package.

The plaintiff argues that “the long-established connection of butter compounds as contributing to the unique profile of cheddar cheese means that any artificial butter flavor in a cheddar cheese flavored product is required to be disclosed to consumers.” This guideline is purportedly followed by other brands of cheddar and sour cream chips.

Monday’s complaint also alleges that the ingredient list does not use parentheses to note sub-ingredients sufficiently. For example, cheddar cheese and sour cream are listed with sub-ingredients, but the plaintiff claims they are “subject to standards of identity” and should not have lists of ingredients.

The defendant was accused of hiding the artificial flavors to be able to charge more for the chips and intentionally misleading consumers. The plaintiff would reportedly not have bought the chips if they were aware of the artificial flavoring, and claims that they and others who purchased the product in New York relied on the defendant’s “deceptive labeling.”

The plaintiff, represented by Sheehan & Associates, P.C. asked for the class to be certified and for the court to enter preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, monetary damages, and other expenses.