On Thursday, June 2, 2016, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered the transfer of more than 50 class-action lawsuits—alleging that several brands of Parmesan cheese, which had been labeled as 100% grated Parmesan cheese, contained wood-pulp and cellulose as fillers—to U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman of the Northern District of Illinois. Defendants in the suit includeKraft Heinz Co., Target Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. private-label Parmesan cheese and Supervalu Inc.
Plaintiffs in the suit point to a February 2016 article from Bloomberg.com that exposed results from independent laboratory studies, which found that 7.8% of Wal-Mart’s private-label 100% Parmesan cheese contained cellulose and Kraft Parmesan contained 3.8% cellulose fillers made from wood-pulp, despite the products being promoted as being 100% Parmesan cheese. Specifically, the suits claim that the products in question were mislabeled in violation of state consumer laws as well as the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which is in place to protect consumers from deceptive warranty practices.
Defendants argue that the FDA has labeled cellulose as a safe additive to food products and that it is frequently used in dairy products, like cheese and ice cream, to make them taste creamier. However, it is important to note that the FDA recognizes cellulose as a safe additive only at low percentages (2-4%).
Despite the fact that the defendants are all separate companies and represent separate products, MDL Panel chairwoman, Sarah Vance, stated that the panel chose to consolidate the class actions into one single MDL due to the fact that there is a significant overlap in the central factual issues, parties and claims.
The case is: IN RE: 100% GRATED PARMESAN CHEESE MARKETING AND SALES PRACTICES LITIGATION MDL No. 2705
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