December 02, 2006

Guacamole or Guaca-faux-le?

According to an article in Thursday’s LA Times, a California woman filed a class action lawsuit against Kraft for misrepresentation because its guacamole dip didn’t have enough avocado in it.

Now, just hold on a minute. I know what you’re thinking—another frivolous lawsuit, right? Wrong. You should be ashamed of yourself. Read the LA Times article. Believe me, you don’t file a lawsuit like this unless you have an FDA rule tucked under your belt telling you exactly how much avocado should be in guacamole.

“[T]he Food and Drug Administration has no legal standard mandating how much avocado should be in guacamole.”
OK, so there’s no FDA rule. No worries. That doesn’t mean the package isn’t misleading. Certainly, for someone to actually file a lawsuit against Kraft for misrepresentation, the label must not list how much avocado is in the dip.

“If consumers read the fine print, they would discover that Kraft Dips Guacamole contains less than 2% avocado … All of the ingredients are listed on the label for consumers to reference.”
Alright, alright. So the package tells you exactly how much avocado is in the dip. But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been injured. You can’t sue somebody unless you’ve been injured. And I’ll bet you dollars-to-donuts that she suffered some grave and serious injury—one that will tug at the jury’s heartstrings, one that we can all relate to.

“Brenda Lifsey, the plaintiff, said she made a three-layer dip with Kraft guacamole last year only to discover that it contained almost none of the ingredient she most expected: avocado. ‘It just didn't taste avocadoey,’ said Lifsey….”
OK, so…no injury either. Hmm. Well, look, don’t judge this woman too harshly. I mean, it’s not like she’s one of those people who has made a career out of suing large corporations.

“Lifsey has been a plaintiff in other lawsuits against large corporations. A few years ago, she joined a lawsuit against Sears, claiming that the retailer misrepresented that its Craftsman tools were U.S. made. That case is still in the courts. She also was part of a suit filed last year against vehicle reporting service Carfax Inc., alleging that it did not have access to police accident reports in California and other states even though it advertised that it could provide vehicle history records. Carfax denied the claims.”
Oh well, Brenda. I tried.


Christine said...

1. Ew, less than 2%? What else could be in it.


2. Poor, poor Brenda. No one appreciates the emotional distress one can suffer from serving a three layer dip that isn't avocadoey. I mean, really. The injustice of it all!

Alia said...

i think you guys are missing the point here. granted, she didn't suffer some dramatic injury. but shouldn't the food industry have to hold their products to some sort of standard? you shouldn't be able to call a product something it's you object to the strict standards governing the labelling of parma ham? all this woman is trying to say is that companies shouldn't be allowed to misnomer their products. guacamole is, by definition, an avocado based (and dominated) dip. so you shouldn't be allowed to mix up a bunch of chemicals, state the fact in tiny print, and fool a bunch of consumers who don't have the time or inclination to read tiny print into buying your product. as consumers, we should be able to trust the food industry enough to believe that we are buying what they tell us they are selling. we shouldn't have to scrutinize every product we buy to ensure our satisfaction - or even our safety! what she's really fighting for here is the integrity of the food industry and the interests of the consumer. i can get behind that.

PhilaFoodie said...


I agree with you in principle; however, this isn't that case.

First, consumers these days know to read the label. And if the ingredients are listed on the label in quantitative order per the FDA rules, the company has, in fact, told us what they're selling.

Second, this product was made by Kraft. No offense to Kraft, but they're not exactly known for selling unprocessed food. You can't leave common sense at the door when you walk into the grocery store. Just as I don't have to read the lable on Cheez Whiz to know that it isn't cheese, I would have felt confident concluding that there's little to no avocado in this dip without having to look at the label.

Third, here's the pink (or in this case, green) elephant in the room: If this woman wanted real guacamole, why didn't she just make it? She lives in California, which accounts for 95% of the country's avocado crop, and guacamole is soooo easy to make. Yet, she's reaching for the Kraft dip? And it's not like she has an aversion to making things--she actually used this dip to make another dip.

So, while I am sympathetic to the cause, I don't really see this case advancing the ball of consumer rights any measurable distance.