Trader Joe’s, a grocery chain famed for selling food items from all over the world, has been accused of cutting jars of novelty Manuka honey with less expensive varieties and then selling the product as pure, an alleged act that has resulted in a lawsuit. “While the demand for Manuka honey has increased, the supply of natural Manuka honey with high antibacterial potency remains limited,” says the lawsuit filed by three individuals who claim to have bought tampered Manuka honey products at their local Trader Joe’s store. “As a result, the price for a bottle of Manuka honey can be as much as 10 times higher than that of ordinary non-Manuka honeys.”
In the wake of this public statement, Trader Joe’s has not commented on this new lawsuit, which was filed with the Oakland office of the US District Court within the last few weeks. According to the lawsuit, Trader Joe’s sells some honey jars labeled as “100 Percent New Zealand Manuka Honey” while others are labeled as simply “New Zealand Manuka Honey.” Because of these confusing labels, the plaintiffs, who are trying for a class action designation, say reasonable consumers would believe they were buying 100 percent, pure Manuka honey. “The ingredients statement lists only one ingredient—Manuka honey,” writes the suit.
California resident Lynn Moore, one of the plaintiffs, says she spent about $24 on Amazon to buy one bottle of Trader Joe’s in-house Manuka honey after she saw an ad displaying a picture of the honey. The label in the ad read, “100 Percent New Zealand Manuka Honey.” The suit also stipulates that the other plaintiffs, two men from North Carolina and New York, purchased Manuka honey through Trader Joe’s after reading the ingredients list and concluding they were buying pure, 100 percent Manuka honey.
The three plaintiffs say they wouldn’t have bought these tampered honeys if they had known they were impure varieties. “The ingredients statement and the ‘100 Percent New Zealand Manuka Honey’ representation both communicate the same message, which is the product is pure Manuka honey, not a blend of Manuka honey and other honeys.” Per the suit, consumers “purchase Manuka honey, not only for its taste, but for its healthful properties, which depend on the specific purity level.”
The lawsuit argues that reasonable individuals would have been misled by the grocery chain’s representation of “pure” Manuka honey, given they would have assumed Trader Joe’s was “fulfilling its legal obligation to market its product truthfully. They would reasonably assume that a producer would not represent a honey as pure Manuka without first testing it to ensure that this was true.” As of this writing, the three plaintiffs are asking for an unnamed amount in damages, cessation of an ostensibly deceptive marketing strategy, and a remedial advertising campaign.
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Photo Courtesy of Mike Mozart via Creative Commons License