Sinatro and Prost claim that they would not have bought pasta if they had known that it was not made in Italy, which is valued not only for making pasta but also for having the high-protein durum wheat needed to make a high-quality product.
U.S. Magistrates Judge Donna Rio ruled on Monday that the case had enough merit to continue. “Their allegations are sufficient to prove economic damage for purposes of constitutional standing,” Rio wrote.
Barilla is based in Illinois but started as a shop selling bread and pasta in Parma, Italy. Facilities in Iowa and New York use ingredients sourced from countries other than Italy, according to court filings.
The California law firm that filed the lawsuit did not immediately respond to Washington Post requests for comment.
A spokesperson for Barilla said Friday that the allegations are unfounded, pointing to the wording on the package that the pasta is made in the United States with ingredients from the United States and elsewhere. According to the statement, “We are very proud of the brand’s Italian heritage, the company’s Italian know-how, and the quality of our pasta in the United States and the world.”
Many modern consumers assume that they are being misled or manipulated by companies, according to some law professors who study false advertising.
Rebecca Touchent, a professor at Harvard Law School, said people feel cheated when they pay a premium for what they consider a specialty product, such as chocolate from Switzerland.
She said consumers are steadily filing false advertising lawsuits against companies that sell products in grocery stores because it is one of the last forums in society not to get involved in legal forms or contracts in which consumers sign their rights to sue. So, Touchnt said, this pent-up frustration with manipulation is being expressed by companies in your local lane 5.
Tushnet said she realizes that some people find these suits ridiculous, because they can hardly expect to buy something made 6,000 miles away for $2. “Some of them are about common sense,” she said.
But how does one determine common sense when millions of dollars are at stake?
Tushnet said there has been a slight increase in the past five years or so of plaintiffs and defendants in false advertising cases conducting public surveys that talk about the issues of the case.
Megan Bannigan, a partner at Debevoise and Plimpton who has experimented with intellectual property cases, said the survey has come a long way and is a useful tool in false advertising cases.
When Bannigan started 15 years ago, she says, they were staying inside a mall and trying to get 400 people into a room to ask them questions like where they thought a product came from and whether they’d be surprised to find out about the product. actual origin.
She said taking surveys online has become much cheaper and more efficient, but that such surveys can still cost between $20,000 and $100,000. But that’s only a fraction of the cost in these types of cases, which can take millions of dollars to figure out.
Bannegan said she could see one or both sides of Barilla’s lawsuit doing the polls, because there appears to be a legitimate legal problem.
“I don’t see the claim as a hoax,” she said.
The history of false advertising law dates back to the 19th century, said Gregory Claes, professor of law at Georgetown University.
“There is a long tradition of people who care about where their food comes from and where other products come from, so it’s not surprising to see lawsuits like this,” he said.
Claes cited the well-known example of the exclusive naming rights associated with sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France.
As for pasta made in Iowa and New York, he said the real question is how important it is to consumers whether the packaging is misleading.
Alexandra J. Roberts, a law professor at Northeastern University in Boston, said some consumers are outraged that natural Florida orange juice now also uses Mexican oranges.
The Florida citrus industry is advertised for its quality and consistency, so, she said, consumers are OK to pay more because the name on the box says it all.
The first element in Florida’s Natural Frequently Asked Questions Page He explains why he doesn’t use only Florida oranges: “The Florida orange crop can no longer meet consumer demand, so we’re adding only the best Mexican Valencia orange juice. This allows us to continue to supply enough orange juice to consumers’ growing thirst while maintaining the superior taste they love. From Florida Natural.”
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