Emeril’s Pasta Sauces Falsely Labeled as Preservative-Free, Suit Claims

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November 2, 2023

by Brian Eckert

B&G Foods, Inc. is facing a Milberg class action lawsuit claiming that it labels Emeril-branded pasta sauces as containing “No Preservatives” despite them containing the preservative citric acid.

Anyone who purchased Emeril’s pasta sauce may be eligible to join this lawsuit as a class member. There is no need to hire a lawyer. Milberg is representing the class on a contingency-fee basis.

What is This Lawsuit About?

Consumers are increasingly conscious of what they eat and are willing to pay more for healthy food items. They’re checking the Nutrition Facts panel, ingredient list, and packaging to see if foods are natural, organic, and preservative-free.

Defendant’s misrepresentation seeks to capitalize on consumers’ preference for products with no preservatives. Indeed, foods bearing ‘free-from’ claims are increasingly relevant to Americans, as they perceive the products as closely tied to health.

Foods that have “free-from” claims such as “fat-free” and “preservative-free” are viewed as healthier. Preservative-free is one of the top “free-from” claims that consumers look for, with 71% saying that foods without preservatives are important to them.

According to Milberg’s class action complaint, consumer preference for more natural or less processed foods is the reason why the defendant labels its Emeril pasta sauces as being “All Natural” and containing “No Preservatives.”

But there’s a problem with this labeling claim: Emeril pasta sauces contain citric acid, a well-known, chemically processed preservative.

Is Citric Acid Harmful to Health?

The lawsuit argues that the plaintiff and proposed class members were harmed economically because they bought a mislabeled product they might not have otherwise purchased.

Although the lawsuit does not make legal claims about health concerns associated with citric acid, there is evidence that consuming commercially produced citric acid can cause inflammatory issues.

Some citric acid is naturally occurring and derived from citrus fruits. It can also be made from the black mold Aspergillus niger.

Pfizer began producing manufactured citric acid in 1919 through a microbial process involving a mutant strain of Aspergillus niger, also known as black mold.

Most commercially produced citric acid—including the citric acid used in Emeril pasta sauces—is made from Aspergillus niger using a microbial process started by Pfizer in 1919. The process involves feeding GMO corn-derived sugars to black mold, which then ferments to form manufactured citric acid.

Citric acid has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties that slow food product spoilage. FDA generally recognizes citric acid as safe when good manufacturing practices are followed.

Which Products Are Included in the Lawsuit?

The lawsuit mentions the defendant’s canned and packaged products that are advertised as having “No Preservatives” but contain citric acid, including these varieties of Emeril brand pasta sauce:

  • Emeril’s Kicked Up Tomato Pasta Sauce
  • Emeril’s Roasted Gaaahlic Pasta Sauce
  • Emeril’s Home Style Marinara Pasta Sauce
  • Emeril’s Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce
  • Emeril’s Vodka Sauce

Who Can Join the Emeril Pasta Sauce Lawsuit?

The lead plaintiff is a New York resident who says she purchased Emeril’s pasta sauce based on the false and misleading representation that it did not contain any preservatives. She says that if she’d known the product contained the preservative citric acid, she would not have purchased it—or at the very least would have paid less for it.

Plaintiff looks to establish the following consumer classes:

  • Anyone in the United States who purchased the products
  • Anyone residing in New York who purchased the products

On behalf of the New York subclass, the lawsuit alleges violations of the New York General Business Law. Breach of express warranty and unjust enrichment claims are brought on behalf of the national class and the New York subclass.

What Can Class Members Recover?

The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages, statutory damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, and “any other just and proper relief” available under the causes of action cited. It also seeks an order compelling the defendant to stop its mislabeling practices and undertake a corrective advertising campaign.

Actual damages in the case will be determined by a jury verdict or settlement. Eligible class members are automatically included in the lawsuit and will receive a notice informing them of how to submit a claim for compensation if and when a settlement is reached.

Milberg is a national leader in class action litigation. Since 1965, we have filed thousands of class action lawsuits that have recovered billions of dollars for our clients, set groundbreaking legal precedents, and provided checks and balances on corporations.