March 29th, 2013

Trader Joe’s is known for selling what is described to be all-natural products that ostensibly have lower levels of sugar, salt and are free of artificial products. It has established a loyal following as more stores open in Minnesota. However, a recent class action challenges this notion.

In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, several consumers claim that the grocery chain has mislabeled several products to cover their true nature. Essentially, the store has capitalized on its reputation for offering natural and healthy products. However, they are no healthier than comparable brands.

Specifically, consumers claim that some Trader Joe’s brand products contain the term “evaporated cane juice”, something that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned companies not to use since it is misleading to consumers as an alternative to sugar. Also, they claim that undisclosed artificial preservatives are being used even though ingredients such as beet juice are advertised on products. The complaint further alleges that Trader Joe’s suggests that its products can be a healthy substitute for other brands when their products contain same (or similar) ingredients.

As a matter of law, retailers may not use phrases, slogans or words that may cause a reasonable person to believe something about a product that does not exist or function as it is advertised. We find this matter interesting because many companies take advantage of their consumer-driven reputations to gain more market share.

The consumers seek certification of a class that will include all consumers who purchased Trader Joe’s products that include “evaporated cane juice” or “organic evaporated cane juice.”

Source:, Trader Joe’s Deceptive labeling class action lawsuit, March 28, 2013

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