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Frito-Lay Faces Lawsuit Over Artificially Flavored Cheddar-Sour Cream Chips

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Frito-Lay Faces Lawsuit Over Artificially Flavored Cheddar-Sour Cream Chips

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Snack maker Frito-Lay Inc. is facing a proposed class action lawsuit for misleading consumers in regard to the ingredients in the Ruffle’s Baked Lays Cheddar & Sour Cream flavored chips.

According to the official proposed complaint, the reasonable assumption made by considering the packaging of the chips is that the cheddar and sour cream flavors for the chips are derived naturally. However, this is not the case, particularly with the sour cream flavoring.

This complaint hinges partially on the belief that consumers have begun expressing a marked preference for “natural” foods.

According to New Hope Network, a market research group, 71% of consumers today are avoiding artificial flavors in their food. This is believed to have influenced many food manufacturers who have in recent years begun removing dye and other artificial substances from their foods; or at least leading consumers to believe that they have.

On page 5 of the complaint, it points out that, “...consumers expect dairy products and flavors to contain the minimally necessary ingredients and to be free from synthetic ingredients and harsh processing due to their association with cows and milk rather than chemistry labs.”

The packaging of these chips raises questions.

The complaint points out that both the images and the text on the front of the packaging lead consumers to believe that the cheddar and sour cream flavors come from natural sources. The image on the front of the chips contains a wedge of orange cheddar cheese, and a small bowl of sour cream. Additionally, the language on the front of the package calls the chips “cheddar and sour cream flavored” “potato crisps”.

The problem lies in the sour cream flavoring.

Most sour cream does not contain a high enough level of diacetyl to effectively flavor a chip like sour cream. Instead, Frito-Lay uses artificial diacetyl to achieve the sour cream flavor in their chips, leading the plaintiff to allege that the front label is both deceptive and misleading regarding the actual ingredients of the chips, and that it fails to disclose that the sour cream flavor is derived artificially. However, it is important to note that “artificial flavors” are listed on the ingredient list on the back of the packaging, after artificial colors and skim milk.

The main question then is whether or not Frito-Lay followed federal and state regulations regarding the requirement to inform consumers when a food contains any artificial substance intended to simulate, resemble, or reinforce a characterizing flavor of the product.

This lawsuit is intended on behalf of California consumers of the cheddar-sour cream chips.

The plaintiff responsible for filing this proposed class action lawsuit is seeking damages on behalf of all California consumers who have purchased this product, in addition to an official injunction requiring Frito-Lays to correct the alleged mislabeling on all future products. If the class is approved, the lawsuit regarding Frito-Lay’s unfair business practices, misleading advertising, and violations of state and federal consumer protection regulations can continue.

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