Barilla Pasta Company could find itself in trouble with two former customers, who are seeking a class action lawsuit against it for allegedly false advertising.
A multinational food company owned by the Italians filed a motion to have the class action complaint dismissed in the U.S. District Court for Northern California. The order, which was 28 pages long and signed Monday by Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu, stated that the claim was granted in part and denied partially.
Matthew Sinatro, from San Francisco, and Jessica Prost, from Los Angeles, seek to represent a nationwide and California subclass. They allege that Barilla America, Inc. deceives customers into believing its pasta products were made in Italy, and uses ingredients sourced directly from Italy.
Both plaintiffs claim that they would not have bought Barilla products at local grocery stores if they knew the pasta was made in America from New York and Iowa manufacturing plants. They also stated that they could have chosen more affordable alternatives.
Senator purchased an angel hair pasta box from the Classic Barilla Blue Box Pasta Line in 2021, for $2.
Prost purchased two boxes of spaghetti from the Classic Barilla Blue Box Pasta Line in fall 2021, for $2 each.
Plaintiffs claim that authentic Italian products, such as pasta, are more expensive than pasta made in Italy.
Barilla was founded in 1877 in Parma, Italy as a family-owned and operated pasta shop. Today, it operates as an international food company.
The slogan “Italy’s #1 Brand of Pasta” was trademarked by the company. Its packaging features the saying and three decorative bubbles that display the colors of the Italian national Flag — red, green, and white — along with the small logo.
According to the complaint, plaintiffs claim that Barilla’s slogan and flag-like emblem, as well as its sourcing of ingredients in countries other than Italy, have misled customers, causing them to pay more for the company’s products.
Katherine Bruce, of Clarkson Law Firm, a Malibu-based public interest law firm, filed the initial class action lawsuit in June.
Sinatro & Prost claim they only purchased angel hair and spaghetti boxes from Classic Barilla Blue Box Pasta, but the class action complaint calls all 54 Barilla pasta products into question. This includes penne, spaghetti, and penne, from the Barilla Whole Grain Pasta and Barilla Gluten-Free Pasta lines, as well as penne and penne, from the Barilla Collezione Artisanal Pasta lines.
The plaintiffs are asserting five claims for relief, including violation of the Unfair Competition Law; violation of the False Advertising Law; violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act; breach of warranty; and unjust enrichment/restitution, according to the complaint.
Barilla America, Inc. lawyers argue that the pasta packaging of the company is marked with a “Made in the USA” label, which refers to its Illinois headquarters, to avoid confusion and deceit.
Barilla’s motion for dismissal of the class action complaint includes questions about some of the product packaging photos that were submitted as evidence.
The pasta company also argues that plaintiffs do not have a “plausible financial injury”, they haven’t named an alternative cheaper and there could be future harm.
Barilla claims that its product packaging is not materially misleading to a reasonable customer and that its trademarked slogan, “Italy’s #1 Brand of Pasta,” serves to “identify Barilla (not Italy), as the source of its product.”
The pasta company claims that the use of colors from the Italian flag in its design is a reference to the company’s origins. However, it should not lead customers to believe that the products are made in Italy.
Barilla’s motion of dismissal noted that other brands use references to national flags and countries on their product packaging to acknowledge cultural roots.
Barilla’s tortilla brand La Banderita, Ole Mexican Foods, was one example of how it made its point. It featured the slogan “A Taste of Mexico” and a representation of the Mexican national flag.
The company mentioned that the class action lawsuit against King’s Hawaiian’s Original Hawaiian Sweet Rolls was dropped. It was ruled that most customers know that the bread is not made in Hilo, Hawaii and that the plaintiffs “had failed to show that members were likely to believe the packaging and marketing.”
Clarkson Law Firm seems to be handling a variety of class actions against major food and drink brands.
A $7.8 million class-action lawsuit was settled by the firm against Celsius Energy Drinks. It was brought by U.S. customers who claimed Celsius mislabeled their cans, with labels that claimed they had “no preservatives.”
Clarkson also filed a class-action complaint against Texas Pete hot sauce company for being manufactured in North Carolina. The plaintiffs claim this is false advertising.
Barilla was dismissed by the judge in the class action complaint. However, the order provides a 14-day window to amend complaints according to the Monday filing.