Wisconsin is not the place to imply your food contains real mozzarella cheese when it actually may be something less.
An Elroy woman has sued food giant Kraft Heinz, saying the packaging of its Bagel Bites Pizza Snacks amounts to fraud.
Kaitlyn Huber’s federal lawsuit, filed over the weekend in Madison, says a box featuring the Real Dairy seal, and the large type announcing mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce, are “false, deceptive and misleading.”
The suit, which seeks class-action status on behalf of anyone who bought the bites in Wisconsin, asks the court to make Kraft Heinz correct its packaging and for unspecified damages.
“Wisconsin consumers want real mozzarella cheese in pizza because they value (1) its soft, moist texture, (2) its milky, yet tangy taste and (3) its high protein and relatively low calories and sodium compared to other cheeses,” the suit states.
The suggestion that Bagel Bites Pizza Snacks are made with tomato sauce is also bogus, according to Huber’s suit.
“Reasonable Wisconsin consumers expect a product claiming to contain ‘Tomato Sauce’ will contain only tomato ingredients and seasonings instead of thickeners like cornstarch and methylcellulose,” it reads.
Huber’s lawsuit claims Wisconsin and federal regulations require any purported mozzarella that contains added food starch — in place of milk — to be labeled as imitation mozzarella cheese.
Lynne Galia, a spokesperson for Kraft Heinz said the company did not have any comment about Huber’s lawsuit Monday.
In a court filing in a very similar suit filed in New York earlier this year, lawyers for Heinz Kraft argued that because some mozzarella is used in the “cheese blend” cited as an ingredient in Bagel Bites, it is not “imitation” mozzarella under federal law.
Huber’s attorney, Spencer Sheehan of New York, withdrew the New York version and said he thinks the case is best set in Wisconsin because of the importance of the dairy industry here. In fact, the complaint contains several paragraphs detailing the role of dairy farming in the state’s economy and culture.
“Dairy is more integral to Wisconsin than potatoes are to Idaho and oranges to Florida,” it states. “Ninety-six percent of Wisconsin dairy farms are family-owned, which means there is a constant connection to dairy which would not exist if this industry were dominated by multinational agribusinesses.”
About a third of all the cheese made in Wisconsin — over a billion pounds in 2017 — is mozzarella.
Last year, Sheehan sued an Illinois dairy on behalf of a Wisconsin woman who claims the packaging of the defendant’s vanilla ice cream is misleading because it suggests it is flavored with real vanilla extract while it actually relies on additional artificial vanilla flavoring.