Consumers Sue Over Artificial Vanilla Sold In Hemp Beverages

A class of dissatisfied consumers launched a legal action against Pacific Foods of Oregon, LLC in the Southern District of New York, claiming that Pacific sold artificial vanilla hemp beverages when the plaintiffs desired (and paid for) hemp delectations with real vanilla.

According to the complaint filed on Monday, members of the class purchased 32-ounce containers of the defendant’s “Hemp Plant-Based Vanilla Beverage” for $4.79, a price the class alleged should have been lower as the vanilla in the beverage was actually an artificial vanilla chemical known as Vanillin. While the class members do not dispute the ingredients on the back of the beverage generally disclose the replacement vanilla by listing it as “Natural Vanilla Flavor With Other Natural Flavors,” the plaintiffs proffered that federal regulations and New York state law required the front label to be clearly marked as being “Vanilla with Other Natural Flavor.”

As the false labeling resulted in “reasonable consumers, observing the product’s absence of qualifying front label terms…expecting the product to only be flavored by vanilla ingredients,” the plaintiffs concluded that the misleading front-side labeling that resulted in any sale was “deceptive, misleading, and in violation of the law.” Additionally, the plaintiffs averred the sales were all the more egregious because “a reasonable consumer cannot follow up or learn the truth that the product contains [artificial vanilla] from reading the product’s ingredient list because while the defendant labels the flavor ingredient as “natural vanilla flavor with other natural flavors,” it fails to identify the “other natural flavors.”

The class includes all consumers who purchased the 32-ounce beverage from the defendant since 2019. The plaintiffs sought an injunction to mandate the removal of improperly labeled products from the market and require all new beverages be affixed with a front label saying the hemp drink is flavored by “Vanilla with Other Natural Flavor” and an ingredient list on the back stating that the “other natural flavor is Vanillin.” The class further sought court costs, restitution equal to the monies expended by the class for the beverages, and attorneys’ fees.

The class of plaintiffs are represented by Sheehan & Associates, P.C. The same firm brought a similar suit against Whole Foods last week, alleging a similar misrepresentation of the use of artificial vanilla flavoring.