On April 6, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois against The Kraft Heinz Company (“Kraft”) over claims that its popular Kraft Mac & Cheese products (“the Products) have improper and misleading packaging, also displayed in its marketing.
In the complaint, named plaintiffs Gabrielle Stuve and Jessica Nicodemo alleged that Kraft failed to disclose on the Products’ packaging, that the items contained, or are at risk of containing, ortho-phthalates (“phthalates”), which are unsafe chemicals that can potentially expose consumers to harmful health issues. The plaintiffs claimed that dairy products are known to be a major source of exposure to phthalate—fattier and more processed foods tend to have higher phthalate levels.
Phthalate exposure in adult men can cause decreased semen quality. However, it is prenatal exposure to phthalates that presents the most disconcerting side-effects. According to the complaint, prenatal exposure to phthalates can cause neurodevelopmental problems such as ADHD, anti-social behavior, learning and memory problems and genital birth defects in boys.
The plaintiffs cite a 2017 Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging study conducted by an independent laboratory that tested cheese powders from 10 different varieties of macaroni and cheese, finding phthalates in all 10 varieties of macaroni and cheese. While the study failed to name the brands tested in the study, notably, the leaders of the study sent a letter to Kraft’s CEO warning of the dangers of phthalates exposure.
The plaintiffs argued that Kraft knew that consumers actively rely on the company to make honest statements about the quality and safety of its products. On the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese official website, the “frequently asked questions” page includes a question which states, “Should I be concerned about food and phthalates?” Kraft reassuringly answers that it “knows moms and dads trust Kraft Mac & Cheese as a quality, tasty, and safe food for the family.”
The plaintiffs seek to represent a class made up of all persons who, during the applicable statute of limitation period to the present, purchased Kraft Mac & Cheese products in the U.S. for personal and/or household use. The suit brings causes of action for violation of Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, violations of New York Consumer Law for Deceptive Acts and Practices, violations of New York Consumer Law for False Advertising, Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, unjust enrichment, breach of express warranty and breach of implied warranty.
The case is: Gabrielle Stuve et al. v. The Kraft Heinz Co., Case No.: 1:21-cv-01845, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
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