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When “All” Doesn’t Really Mean “All"

What did we learn from the lawsuit over those cans of grated parmesan cheese? On the front label, it read “100% Grated Parmesan Cheese.” But it wasn’t. there could have been as much as 10% wood pulp (cellulose) in these products. A lower court ruled that the label was ambiguous, advising the buyer to check out the back side ingredients statement where she would learn what was really inside the can.

An appeals court reversed, saying that the “100%” on the front of the can was enough to lead a consumer to think that the claim was misleading. Then came the case of Entenmann’s “All Butter Loaf Cake.” The words “All Butter” were the biggest words on the box. Not that a consumer would think that the only ingredient in the cake was butter, but would you think there was some other shortening in it? Like “Vegetable Oil?”

Naturally, a lawsuit claimed the “All Butter” claim was misleading. But the court, relying on the lower court’s decision in the 100% Grate Parmesan case, threw out the case, even though the appeals court had rejected the lower court's decision. What gives?

Entenmann’s “All Butter” cake is not alone in this. I bought a loaf of Sara Lee’s “All Butter Pound Cake” and saw on the ingredients statement that it also contains soybean oil. So maybe “All Butter” doesn’t mean 100% butter? The dictionary definition of “All” is “the whole amount or quantity.” But maybe not when it comes to loaf cakes or pound cakes.

The appeals court case reversing the lower court's decision in the "100% Grated P0armesan Cheese" case is Bell v. Publix Super Mkts, 982 F.3d 468 (7th Cir. 2020). The district court tossing the Entenmann's "All Butter Loaf Cake" is Boswell v. BIMBO Bakeries, 2021 WL 5144552 (S.D.N.Y. 2021). No one has sued Sara Lee. Not yet.


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