CHICAGO — Keebler Fudge Stripes cookies have come under fire for false, deceptive and misleading information related to “fudge” claims made on the product’s packaging, according to a July 29 complaint filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

According to the filing, the front-label representations include fudge being dripped on the product, mint leaves, “Fully Fudged – Fudge Mint,” “Naturally and Artificially Flavored,” and “Made With Real Keebler Fudge.”

“The representations that the product is ‘Made With Real Keebler Fudge’ and contains actual mint ingredients is false, deceptive and misleading because it does not contain these ingredients,” the complaint said, noting multiple current and historic recipes and dictionaries to support the contention that fudge is made with butter, sugar and milk.

“When consumers observe the representation ‘Made With Real Keebler Fudge,’ they will expect it contains ingredients which are essential to fudge,” the complaint said. “However, the product lacks the ingredients essential to fudge — butter and milk — and substitutes vegetable oils and whey, lower quality, and cheaper ingredients.”

As a result, the complaint noted that the result is that the product’s “fudge” provides “less satiety, a waxy and oily mouthfeel, and leaves an aftertaste.”

The complaint also noted that while the front label contains pictures of mint leaves, the ingredient list reveals the absence of any mint ingredients.

“The only way the product can purport to taste like mint is due to the ‘Natural and Artificial Flavors’ in the fine print of the ingredient list,” the complaint noted. “This means that any actual mint is at most a negligible part of this ingredient. Though the front label states, ‘Naturally and Artificially Flavored,’ reasonable consumers will still expect an appreciable amount of mint ingredients from the mint plant. Artificial flavoring cannot duplicate the unique flavor compounds of real mint.”

The Ferrero Group, which acquired the Keebler brand in 2019, has not commented on the complaint. Since taking over the Keebler brand two years ago, Ferrero has rolled out updated recipes and packaging for its cookie brands, including Fudge Stripes. Key formulation changes include the removal of high-fructose corn syrup and a switch to natural vanilla.

“We really started the minute we closed on the sale of the business, taking this beloved, iconic 150-year-old master brand Keebler and really reinvigorating it and bringing it to life,” Natalie Hagstrom, general manager of cookies at Ferrara, told Food Business News in July 2020. “We’re enhancing our ingredients with more ‘made with real’. We know for the US consumer, it’s really table stakes, shorter ingredient statements, more real ingredients. With Chips Deluxe Original, you’ll see ‘made with more real chocolate.’ On Fudge Stripes you’ll see ‘made with real Keebler fudge,’ and on our Sandies brand you’ll see real Madagascar vanilla has been added to our ingredients statement.”