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Consumer sues food company over "fake" guacamole

Monday, December 04, 2006 by: Jessica Fraser
Tags: gucamole, food manufacturers, deceptive marketing

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(NewsTarget) A Los Angeles woman sued Kraft Foods Inc. for fraud and deceptive labeling last week, claiming that that its Kraft Dips Guacamole dip -- which contains less than 2 percent avocado -- is misleading consumers.

The plaintiff, Brenda Lifsey, said she discovered the miniscule amount of avocado in Kraft's guacamole last year when she made a three-layer dip. "It just didn't taste avocadoey," Lifsey said. "I looked at the ingredients and found there was almost no avocado in it."

Lifsey's suit asks the Los Angeles County Superior Court to halt Kraft's marketing of the guacamole dip as guacamole -- which traditionally contains mostly avocado, along with smaller amounts of other ingredients such as tomato and onion. She is also seeking attorneys' fees and unspecified punitive damages.

Kraft's guacamole -- one of the best-selling avocado dips in the country -- contains mostly starch, large quantities of partially hydrogenated coconut and soybean oils, and blue and yellow food coloring to give it a green color.

According to Claire Regan, vice president of Kraft Foods corporate affairs, the company is in the process of re-labeling its guacamole dip to make it more clear to consumers that the dip is merely guacamole-flavored dip. Regan said the change was not associated with Lifsey's lawsuit.

"We think consumers understand that [the dip] isn't made from avocado," Regan said. "All of the ingredients are listed on the label for consumers to reference."

The FDA has no regulation in place for requiring guacamole to contain a minimum amount of avocado. However, the agency does regulate other foods, such as peanut butter, which must contain 90 percent peanuts by law. FDA spokesman Michael Herndon said the agency would need to find Kraft's label misleading in order for the guacamole dip to be considered misbranded.

Consumer advocate Mike Adams, author of "Grocery Warning," said guacamole is one of several grocery store foods that are packaged, positioned and marketed deceptively.

"Food manufacturers use artificial colors, hydrogenated oils, flavor additives and dangerous cancer-causing chemicals like sodium nitrite to alter the cosmetics, texture and taste of foods, essentially fooling our eyes and taste buds," Adams said.

"The practice is highly unethical but widespread, and unless more consumers start suing food companies to reverse this trend, the deceptions will continue," he said. "Government regulators, for example, are doing nothing to prevent this kind of deceptive labeling."

Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, called on the FDA to set standards requiring Kraft and other manufacturers to disclose the amount of avocado in their guacamole dips. Jacobson said Kraft's labeling is "deceptive marketing" and said companies with such labels are "begging to be sued."


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