Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Published 2:08 PM EDT Oct 9, 2019
Vanilla and ice cream have a storied history in America.
Thomas Jefferson may have discovered vanilla ice cream when a bottle of vanilla extract accidentally spilled into the frozen milk and cream dessert he was preparing during the summer he wrote our Constitution, according to an interesting line in a class action federal lawsuit filed on Oct. 4 against Wegmans Food Markets.
The lawsuit, filed by Quincy Steele of Pennsylvania and Jimmy Arriola of New York City, states that consumers expect vanilla ice cream to be flavored exclusively by real vanilla derived from the vanilla plant. Wegmans ice creams contain flavors derived from non-vanilla sources, which is misleading to consumers, the lawsuit states.
Wegmans doesn't see it that way.
"We take great pride in the quality of all of our Wegmans Brand products," said Jo Natale, vice president of media relations for Wegmans Food Markets. "We believe that the labeling of our ice cream fully complies with all regulations and industry standards, and is not misleading in any way."
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Not just plain vanilla
Wegmans is the latest target in a series of vanilla-related lawsuits filed by attorney Spencer Sheehan of Great Neck, Long Island.
• In June, he was the lawyer for class-action lawsuits against Unilever United States Inc., which makes ice cream under the Breyers brand; for Danone North America, pertaining to vanilla yogurts including the Oikos Triple Zero line; and Nestlé Dreyer’s Ice Cream Co., which makes Dreyer's and Edy's ice cream brands.
• In July, he was the lawyer for a class-action lawsuit against Friendly’s Manufacturing and Retail for ice creams with the Friendly’s brand.
• Other targets of similar lawsuits include Keurig Dr Pepper Inc., Cumberland Farms and Blue Diamond Growers of Sacramento, California, maker of vanilla-flavored Almond Breeze almond milk, according to an article in the Boston Business Journal.
“Class action cases provide a valuable mechanism that Americans have to address certain wrongs," Sheehan said. "This is a valid and lawful means for doing so.”