Pasta Made in Iowa Sparks Lawsuit Over Alleged Marketing ‘Made in Italy’ – Iowa Capital Dispatch | Mobiz World

Two California consumers are suing the owners of Iowa-made Barilla pasta, claiming the company falsely suggests the products are made in Italy.

The federal lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status, was filed in June in the US District Court for the Northern District of California by plaintiffs Matthew Sinatro and Jessica Prost of California. They claim they bought Barilla Angel Hair pasta and spaghetti last year believing they were made in Italy with “authentic” Italian ingredients.

They cite the slogan printed on the boxes of Barilla products – “Italy’s #1 Pasta Brand” – and the colors used on the packaging, which they say are modeled on the Italian flag.

US District Judge Donna M. Ryu ruled this week that the lawsuit can proceed despite Barilla America’s motion to dismiss.

The case commemorates a lawsuit over Templeton Rye, a product originally made in Templeton, Iowa during Prohibition, but more recently distilled and aged in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Following a 2015 settlement in a class action lawsuit alleging misleading marketing, the company agreed to add the words “distilled in Indiana” to the product’s label and remove any claims that the rye was based on a “recipe from of the Prohibition Era” was based.

In their lawsuit against Barilla America, Prost and Sinatro allege that the pasta they purchased was marketed as “authentic, real Italian pasta — made with ingredients and sources in Italy, like durum wheat — and made in Italy.”

Although Barilla has its global headquarters in Parma, Italy, its North American headquarters is in Illinois and it has factories in Ames, Iowa and Avon, New York.

In court filings, the company argues that its slogan and packaging are only used to cite the company’s “Italian roots through generalized representations of the brand” and are not intended to imply that the products were made in Italy. They notice that their product packaging includes the statement “Made in the USA.”

The plaintiffs’ claim for damages is based on the notion that food produced in Italy “possesses a certain prestige” and is generally regarded as a superior product. “Consumers are willing to pay more for products that sound and/or look Italian,” the lawsuit reads. “Italian pasta is one of the best and most sought-after products on the world market.”

Claiming “nothing on the labeling or packaging of the products would lead reasonable consumers to believe that the contested representation – that the products are made in Italy, their ingredients come from Italy and the finished products are made in Italy – is untrue. ”

The lawsuit alleges violations of California’s unfair competition law; violating the state false advertising law; violations of the state’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act; breach of warranty; and unjust enrichment.

In her ruling this week, Judge Ryu Barilla denied a request to block plaintiffs’ efforts to obtain statewide class action status in their case, but did so on a very limited basis, noting that any decision on status is a class action would be “premature”. at this point. She decided that the issue in the case “is better addressed at the class certification stage.”

Regarding whether Barilla’s packaging was misleading, Ryu noted that the company would like the court to assume that consumers would only perceive the claims on the packaging as saying that the products “are part of the Barilla brand and not that they are made in Italy by Italian ingredients.” But plaintiffs “plausibly claim” that the on-package claims, when viewed in the context of the company’s packaging colors and promotional efforts, “support a reasonable conclusion that the products were made in Italy from Italian ingredients,” Ryu ruled, denying a motion to dismiss.

Barilla argued that no reasonable consumer could be fooled as all 54 of its products are “prominently marked ‘Made in the USA’ with the location of Barilla’s headquarters in Illinois”.

Ryu cited previous cases where judges have ruled that “reasonable consumers should not be expected to look beyond misleading front-of-box representations to discover the truth…in the fine print on the side of the box.”

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