|18 Dec 2006 @ 17:57|
Lawsuit stirs up guacamole labeling controversy
By Jerry Hirsch
Times Staff Writer
Published November 30, 2006
Peanut butter is made from peanuts, tomato paste is made from tomatoes, and guacamole is made from avocados, right?
Wrong. The guacamole sold by Kraft Foods Inc., one of the bestselling avocado dips in the nation, includes modified food starch, hefty amounts of coconut and soybean oils, and a dose of food coloring. The dip contains precious little avocado, but many customers mistake it for wholly guacamole.
On Wednesday, a Los Angeles woman sued the Northfield, Ill.-based food company, alleging that it committed fraud by calling its dip "guacamole." Her lawyer says suits against other purveyors of "fake guacamole" could be filed soon.
FOR THE RECORD:
Guacamole lawsuit: An article in Thursday's Business section about a lawsuit alleging that Kraft Foods Inc. committed fraud in labeling a dip as guacamole referred to the product as one of the bestselling avocado dips in the nation. In fact, Kraft's product is ranked No. 13 among guacamole dips and has only a 3% dollar share of the guacamole-flavored-dip segment, according to market researcher ACNielsen. —
The suit, which seeks class-action status, highlights the liberty some food companies take in labeling their products.
If consumers read the fine print, they would discover that Kraft Dips Guacamole contains less than 2% avocado. But few of them do. California avocado growers, who account for 95% of the nation's avocado crop, said they didn't know that store-bought guacamole contained little of their produce.
"We have not looked at this issue, but we might follow it now that we are aware of it," said Tom Bellamore, the top lawyer at the California Avocado Commission in Irvine.
Kraft and other food companies said they weren't deceiving customers by skimping on the avocado. A Kraft spokeswoman said most people understood that guacamole was part of the company's line of flavored dips.
"We think customers understand that it isn't made from avocado," said Claire Regan, Kraft Foods' vice president of corporate affairs. "All of the ingredients are listed on the label for consumers to reference." More >