Ever since the '90s, kids and adults alike have enjoyed the cheesy, crunchy goodness that is Bagel Bites. But a new lawsuit claims that the pint-sized pizza snacks aren't actually made with real cheese or real tomato sauce.
As first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the federal lawsuit was filed at the end of April and alleges that Kraft Heinz has deceived consumers by including the "Real" dairy seal when its product "does not contain 'real' mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce, as these foods are understood and expected by consumers."
The lawsuit goes on to explain that mozzarella cheese is made "chiefly from dairy ingredients with a small amount of permitted optional ingredients" which include additional milk or cream, clotting enzymes, vinegar, coloring and salt.
"The reason the optional ingredients are restricted is to prevent addition of lower quality ingredients in place of high-quality dairy ingredients," the lawsuit reads.
The document goes on to say that instead of mozzarella cheese, Bagel Bites include "a 'Cheese Blend' that contains 'part-skim mozzarella cheese' and 'modified food starch.'"
The lawsuit alleges that the cheese blend is not only misleading for customers who are expecting 100% mozzarella cheese, but that the addition of modified food starch makes the cheese blend less nutritious.
"The addition of food starch and corresponding reduction of milk results in the purported cheese blend having at least two percent less of the daily recommended value (“DRV”) of protein," it reads.
A Kraft Heinz spokesperson denied the claims and shared the following statement with TODAY Food: “Bagel Bites, the perfect bite-sized pizza snack, are made with delicious, high-quality ingredients that our fans know and love. We proudly stand by the food we make, and are focused on bringing great products to market. The lawsuit lacks any merit, and we will strongly defend our brand.”
Wisconsin resident Kaitlyn Huber is listed as the plaintiff and the lawsuit is seeking class-action status for any resident of Wisconsin, Arkansas and Ohio who purchased Bagel Bites "during the applicable statutes of limitations." Huber's attorney, Spencer Sheehan, told TODAY that he hopes Kraft Heinz will correct its packaging.
"Consumers, especially Wisconsin consumers, know what real mozzarella cheese is and isn't, and they know that real mozzarella cheese doesn't contain food starch. They also know that tomato sauce has real tomatoes," he said.
Sheehan, who is based in New York, recently filed a similar lawsuit against Kraft Heinz in his home state but withdrew it. He said he is hopeful that his new case will highlight the importance of the dairy industry to the state of Wisconsin.
"It makes much more sense that a case like this is in Wisconsin because it's a chance to tell a story. To do that, you want the best environment," he said.
The lawsuit details the how the dairy industry is a key part of Wisconsin's economy and references the state's nickname, "America's Dairyland."
"Dairy is more integral to Wisconsin than potatoes are to Idaho and oranges to Florida," it reads. "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."