If you bought a product labeled "Simply 100% Fruit,’’ what would you think it contains?
Valley residents Jennifer and Armando Pisano believe it should have much more of the actual fruit advertised on the label than actually is in the jar, particularly for what they were paying.
And now the couple have gone to court to seek unspecified damages.
The pair also are asking Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Margaret Downie to let them be lead plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the J.M. Smucker Co. to seek compensation on behalf of everyone who has bought the product in the state.
Officials from the Ohiobased company said they would not comment directly about the lawsuit. But Mary Beth Badertscher, Smucker’s manager of corporate communications, said she believes consumers are not being misled.
The Pisanos are not the only ones going after Smucker’s. Similar lawsuits have been filed elsewhere after the Center for Science in the Public Interest called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year to cite the company for false labeling.
CSPI also wants a requirement that lists the percentage of each ingredient on labels, something not now required. Instead, companies are required to list contents only in descending order of their amount.
The Pisanos could not be reached for comment. And their attorney, Stephen Hoffman, did not return repeated calls to his office.
The lawsuit says that what Smucker’s markets under the "Simply 100% Fruit’’ label as strawberry spreadable fruit is only 30 percent actual strawberries. Another 69 percent is fruit syrup, the legal papers claim, which is made not from strawberries but from other ingredients including apple and pineapple juice.
What is labeled as blueberry spread has only 43 percent actual blueberries.
Badertscher said the labels disclose what is in the jars.
For example, the strawberry product contains, in descending order, fruit syrup, strawberries, lemon juice concentrate, fruit pectin, red grape juice concentrate added for color, and natural flavors.
"It clearly indicates on the label what is in there,’’ she said.
By way of comparison, the label on the company’s strawberry preserves lists its ingredients as strawberries, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, sugar, fruit pectin and citric acid.
Smucker’s also markets strawberry jam and strawberry jelly, along with other favors of both products.
But the lawsuit says, label or not, consumers still are being misled.
According to the legal papers, federal law spells out that a product must have at least 47 percent actual fruit to be labeled as "preserves.’’ This product, the lawsuit says, is being marked as a premium product despite its lower fruit content.
Hoffman’s proof is the fact that Smucker’s jams and preserves sell in the range of 18 to 19 cents per ounce. By contrast, his pleadings say, the Pisanos and others were paying between 24 and 25 cents an ounce for each 10-ounce jar of the spreadable fruit.
According to Hoffman, other companies that market similar products like Polaner’s "All Fruit’’ say on the front label that fruit juice concentrates are added for sweetness
What Smucker’s is doing, the lawsuit says, violates Arizona’s consumer fraud laws that make it illegal to use false pretenses, misrepresentation, concealment, suppression or omission of any material fact in connection with the sale or advertisement of any merchandise.
Badertscher said she is not worried.
"We’re very confident that we’re communicating the nature of the product to our consumer in a fair and honest manner,’’ she said.
No date has been set for a trial.