A federal judge gave preliminary approval to a $3.2 million class action settlement agreement over claims that ConAgra Foods Inc. unit Alexia Food Inc. falsely labeled its potato products as “natural” even though they contained an artificial chemical to prevent discoloration.
U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton approved the Alexia potato class action settlement, which would settle the plaintiffs’ claims that Alexia cannot claim its potato products are “all natural” when they contain the chemical disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate (DDP). DDP, a chemical preservative that prevents the potato products from turning brown, is registered with the Chemical Abstracts Service. The final hearing for the class action settlement will to be held on November 27.
Under the terms of the Alexia class action settlement, ConAgra will create a cash settlement fund and establish a separate voucher fund worth $700,000. ConAgra agreed to pay $2.5 million into the cash settlement fund. The company also agreed to reformulate the Alexia potato products so that the “all natural” label will be accurate.
The false advertising class action lawsuit included a nationwide class of customers who had purchased the following Alexia potato products since December 6, 2007: “Sauté Reds,” “Mashed Potatoes Yukon Gold Potatoes & Sea Salt,” “Mashed Potatoes Red Potatoes with Garlic & Parmesan,” “Waffle Fries,” “Harvest Sauté,” “Italian Sauté,” “Sauté Sweets” or “Potato Bites.”
Under the class action settlement, customers who purchased these products will be eligible to receive two food vouchers worth up to $3.75 for each product they purchased, up to $75 in vouchers; a cash payment of $3.50 for each product they purchased, up to $35; or a combination of cash and vouchers.
While ConAgra spokeswoman Becky Niiya says the company believes that DDP qualifies as a natural ingredient, the company has agreed to remove the chemical from their products to prevent future consumers from becoming confused about the ingredient. Under the terms of the class action settlement, the company agreed to use citric acid or other naturally-sourced preservatives in the products advertised as “all natural.”
In December 2011, plaintiffs Leandro Vicuña and Pere Kyle sued over the mislabeled products in a California federal court. They alleged violations of the False Advertising law, claiming breach of express warranty, negligent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment. In February, David Eckstein filed a similar lawsuit against Alexia in New York federal court. According to court documents, the class action lawsuits were consolidated in May.
Details on how to file a claim for the Alexia potato product settlement were not immediately available. Keep checking Top Class Actions or sign up for our free weekly newsletter below to get claim filing instructions when they’re announced. [UPDATE 1: See how to file a claim here.]
The plaintiffs’ attorneys are Roland Tellis, Mark Pifko, Natasha Mehta and David Bower of Baron & Budd PC.
The ConAgra false advertising class action lawsuit is In Re Alexia Foods Inc. Litigation, Case No. 4:11-cv-06119-PJH, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
UPDATE 2: A federal judge granted final approval to the class action settlement at the Final Fairness Hearing.
UPDATE 3: Distribution of settlement awards from the Alexia Potato Products Class Action Settlement will be made mid-June 2014, according to the Settlement Administrator. If you get an award, let us know!
UPDATE 4: Top Class Actions viewers are reporting that settlement checks and coupons were distributed the week of June 16, 2014. Average payouts from the Alexia potato class action settlement are about $16 cash and 20 coupons worth a total of $65 off of future purchases of Alexia potatoes. It’s important to note that awards were reduced pro rata, which means the more valid claims are filed, the less money Class Members receive. Congratulations to everyone who submitted a valid claim and got PAID!
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