Velveeta’s tagline might be “liquid gold,” but a woman in the sunshine state has declared the company owes her quite a few pieces of silver.
On Nov. 18, Florida resident Amanda Ramirez sued the Kraft Heinz Company for at least $5 million over what she claims is deceptive and fraudulent packaging. Ramirez says that since Kraft’s Velveeta Shells & Cheese Microwavable Shell Pasta takes longer than 3-and-a-half minutes to prepare even though its packing states “ready in 3½ minutes,” that constitutes fraud.
“To provide consumers with a Product that is actually “ready in 3½ minutes the Product would need to be cooked in the microwave for less than 3-and-a-half minutes, so that all the preparation steps could be completed in the 3-and-a-half minutes timeframe,” reads the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
In the suit, the mac and cheese’s five instructions that appear on the product packaging are listed, from removing the lid, adding water, microwaving it, then stirring in a powder cheese sauce into the resulting cooked pasta.
What the plaintiff focuses on is the fifth instruction, “cheese sauce will thicken upon standing” which they say constitutes a longer “ready” time than the packaging claims.
“Consumers seeing ‘ready in 3½ minutes’ will believe it represents the total amount of time it takes to prepare the Product,” the suit reads. “However, the directions outlined above show that 3-and-a-half minutes is just the length of time to complete one of several steps. The label does not state the Product takes ‘3½ minutes to cook in the microwave,’ which would have been true.”
In response to the suit, Kraft Heinz issued the following statement to TODAY Food: “We are aware of this frivolous lawsuit and will strongly defend against the allegations in the complaint.”
Ramirez claims in the suit that since Kraft’s Velveeta product is sold at a “premium price,” stating that it costs “approximately no less than $10.99 for eight 2.39 oz cups, excluding tax and sales,” that the product is priced “higher than similar products represented in a non-misleading way” and “higher than it would be sold for absent the misleading representations and omissions.”
Ramirez has sued “individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated,” meaning that this would potentially lead to a class action settlement, as in the the case of a 2020 suit against Anheuser-Busch over its “Ritas” products not containing tequila.
“The members of the class Plaintiff seeks to represent are more than 100, because the Product has been sold with the representations described here from thousands of stores in the States covered by Plaintiff’s proposed classes,” the suit reads. Plaintiffs are seeking at least $5 million in damages, “including statutory and punitive exclusive of interest and costs.”
“Consumers are misled to expect the Product will be ready for consumption in a shorter amount of time than it really takes to prepare,” reads the lawsuit.
The court filing shows that a West Palm Beach-based law firm has filed the suit along with Sheehan and Associates, a New York law firm led by Spencer Sheehan, who has been down this road with clients many times before.
Sheehan is well known for bringing lawsuits against the big companies who make items found in the grocery store, bringing more than 400 lawsuits targeting products you probably have in your pantry right now, NPR reported. In 2021, Sheehan spoke about why he’s brought so many lawsuits against companies like Tostitos, Kellogg’s, Betty Crocker and many, many more.
“I guess I’ve always been the type who would become annoyed [and] never liked it when companies cheated people for small amounts it would be difficult to recoup,” Sheehan told NPR last year.