SAN FRANCISCO — Pasta manufacturer Barilla is being sued for alleged misleading claims on the packaging of 54 varieties of its pasta. On Oct. 17, Federal Magistrate Judge Donya Ryu denied Barilla’s motion to dismiss the class action lawsuit, which was filed June 11 in the US Northern District of California.
At issue in the case was the wording, “Italy’s #1 brand of pasta,” as it appeared alongside the colors of the Italian flag — green, white and red — on Barilla’s pasta packages. According to the filing, plaintiffs were misled by Barilla’s packaging to believe the pasta was made in Italy.
“The challenged representation has misled reasonable consumers, including plaintiffs, into believing that the products are made in Italy,” the filing stated. “However, contrary to this labeling, the products are not made in Italy, the products’ ingredients are not from Italy, and the products are not manufactured in Italy. Rather, the products are made and manufactured in Iowa and New York, with ingredients (such as the main ingredient, durum wheat) sourced in countries other than Italy.”
The filing further asserted that country-of-origin claims generally have, “a considerable influence on (consumers regarding) the quality of perception of a product. Relevant here, authentic Italian products, including pastas, hold a certain prestige and are generally viewed as a higher quality product.
“Indeed, the ‘Made in Italy’ claim has evolved into a brand that distinguishes Italian products from other products, specifically in fashion, food, furniture, and mechanical engineering. ‘Italian-Made’ branding is often associated with superior quality, extreme attention to detail, elegance, and a long-established tradition in manufacturing.”
Plaintiffs in the case purchased Barilla pasta for approximately $2 per box at grocery stores in California in the fall and winter of 2021.