Whole Foods Market knowingly sold its store brand yogurt containing a sugar content that was nearly six times the amount stated on the product's nutritional label, according to two class-action lawsuits filed this month.
The Austin, Texas-based supermarket chain advertised its Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Plain Greek Yogurt as having only 2 grams of sugar per serving. But a Consumer Reports analysis published in July revealed the food item had an average of 11.4 grams of sugar per serving.
"No yogurt on the market actually has only [two] grams of sugar per serving," court documents read. "The lowest sugar content of any Greek yogurt for sale is 5 grams per serving."
Even though the specialty supermarket was aware of Consumer Reports' findings, it failed to remove the mislabeled yogurt from store shelves and continued to sell the product in 12 locations in New Jersey and 10 others in Pennsylvania, the lawsuits allege.
Both class-action suits -- filed on behalf of Mark Bilder in New Jersey and Carmine Clemente and Samantha Kilgallen in Pennsylvania -- could represent as many as 35,000 plantiffs who purchased the mislabled product in the Garden State between Aug. 6, 2008 and present and in the Keystone State from Aug. 11, 2008 to present, according to estimates provided in the lawsuit.
The attorney is calling for a $100 penalty per plantiff -- totaling a possible $3.5 million.
A Whole Foods spokeswoman declined to comment on the pending litigation citing company policy. However, she said the supermarket is working to determine why its test results differed from those reported by Consumer Reports.
The suit also alleges Whole Foods officials were fully aware the labels underreported the greek yogurt's sugar content since nutrition labels on all of its store brand products -- sold under the motto "Health Starts Here" -- are evaluated for correctness.
"Whole Foods Market's website brags to consumers about how thoroughly [it] checks the accuracy of the labels of its store brands, telling consumers: 'Our Private Label registered dietician reviews each nutrition label for accuracy and completeness before the label is printed," court records show.
The inaccurate label gave Whole Foods, which specializes in natural and organic food, a competitive advantage and justified the higher prices the specialty market charges consumers, the suit alleges.
The yogurt in-question typically retails for $1.29.
"It was [the] defendant's conscious intent to induce consumers to purchase 'Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Plain Greek Yogurt' by falsely stating that the sugar content per serving was only [two] grams," court documents show