A class action lawsuit filed in New York accuses the makers of Simply Potatoes products of using deceptive language on their packaging. The suit argues the use of margarine in the potatoes contradicts the claims that they are made from wholesome and simple ingredients.
Plaintiff Josh Berger filed the suit on November 17 against Post Holdings, Inc. and six subsidiaries, including MFI Holding Corporation and Crystal Farms Refrigerated Distribution Company. The defendants are responsible for manufacturing, distributing, and advertising the products of the Simply Potato brand. Berger’s lawsuit questions the phrases used on the seven varieties of the Simply Potatoes Mashed Potatoes. Five of the varieties are labelled as “Regular” with the flavors Traditional, Garlic, Sour Cream & Chive, Sweet and Parmesan Peppercorn. The remaining two varieties are titled “Simply Skinny,” and come in the flavors Sea Slat & Cracked Pepper and Roasted Garlic & Sea Salt.
According to the lawsuit, shoppers are more likely to purchase items they believe contain simple and wholesome ingredients, something they could find in “their grandmother’s kitchen.” Berger accuses the defendants of capitalizing on this preference with manipulative descriptions on their product packaging. He alleges the statements and picture on the product dupe consumers into believing they are purchasing an item that is less processed and does not contain synthetic ingredients.
The Simply Potatoes packaging displays a picture of mashed potatoes with partially melted butter on top. The picture includes a stamp with the words “made with real butter & milk.” On the side of the package is written, “[w]e use fresh, never frozen real potatoes and real ingredients like milk and butter. Finally, comfort food you can feel comfortable with.”
Despite this wholesome food marketing approach, the ingredient list includes margarine. While butter is widely known to be “one of nature’s oldest and simplest foods,” margarine is a relatively new butter alternative that was developed in a lab. Margarine is created as a “result of putting oil through a complex and scientific process called hydrogenation, whereby the oil solidifies into the final product.” The synthetic, highly processed product is the “arch-rival” of butter, which is produced “by churning the cream at the top of a cow’s milk until the fat solidifies.”
The lawsuit alleges the advertisements mislead customers into believing they were purchasing a product full of simple, natural ingredients. Instead, they were buying a product with synthetic margarine derived from genetically modified organisms (GMO) with unhealthy levels of nutrients, sodium, fat content, and calories. Customers who were misled by the false claims paid an undeserved premium price for the product.
Berger is suing on behalf of himself and a proposed Class of customers who purchased Simply Potatoes Mashed Potatoes products within the statutes of limitation period. The Class alleges the defendants violated their rights as guaranteed by New York General Business Law.
The plaintiff is represented by Joshua Levin-Epstein of Levin-Epstein & Associates PC and Spencer Sheehan of Sheehan & Associates PC.
The Simply Potatoes False Advertising Class Action Lawsuit is Josh Berger v. MFI Holding Corporation, et al., Case No. 2:17-cv-06728, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.