retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Chicago Tribune reports on how a federal judicial panel there is scheduled this week to hear a "bevy of food labeling lawsuits" in order to decide "whether to combine similar cases and where to locate them for pretrial hearings."

Among the cases are a suit against Trader Joe's "alleging the grocery chain is under-filling its 5-ounce cans of tuna and therefore misleading customers," a suit against Quaker Oats "alleging consumers have been misled because Maple & Brown Sugar oatmeal does not contain maple syrup despite the wording and images of maple syrup on the packaging," and a suit against Kraft Heinz "alleging misrepresentation in the marketing of its Parmesan cheese, which is labeled '100% Grated Parmesan Cheese,' despite containing filler material derived from wood chips."

There are, of course, differing views of what is happening here. One is that an increasingly informed and aware consumer class simply is demanding that food companies be specific and accurate in how they describe the products that they sell. Another is that this is the result of money-hungry attorneys looking to generate big fees by taking on big food. And there seems to be general agreement that part of the problem is that federal regulators have not been specific enough about these definitions, and that the courts may not be the "appropriate mechanism to determine these issues."
KC's View:
Inevitably, there will be legislation and litigation and lots of sturm und drang about all this stuff. In the end, I think, manufacturers can solve many of these problems themselves simply by being accurate and clear about what it is their products, as well as how and where they are made. Be honest. Be transparent. And be careful not to be too cute by half.