Greek yogurt has gone from health food fad to inescapable food phenomenon in just a few short years. In record time, it has practically replaced non-Greek yogurt -- sort of. How "Greek" is the Greek yogurt we Americans have come to worship? Not so Greek after all, it turns out, at least according to a new lawsuit.
The New York Post reported on June 19 that plaintiffs Barry Stoltz, of Westchester, and Allan Chang, of Queens, are suing Greek yogurt producers Chobani and Fage in two separate class action suits. The men claim that Chobani and Fage are purposefully misleading customers by hiding the amount of sugar in their products, and by calling themselves "Greek."
Stoltz and Chang claim that by labeling yogurt as "0%," the companies are confusing customers by implying their products contain zero sugar. A similar case was dismissed in California last month, because there was no evidence that customers were buying yogurt under that assumption. The lawsuits also take issue with Chobani listing “evaporated cane juice” as a sweetening agent, when it is the same thing as sugar. Chobani lists sugar content in its nutritional information, but does not list sugar in its ingredients. It only lists “evaporated cane juice." According the the New York Post, the suit claims:
Defendants purposefully misrepresented and continue to misrepresent to consumers that their products contain ‘evaporated cane juice’ even though ‘evaporated cane juice’ is not ‘juice’ at all -– it is nothing more than sugar dressed up to sound like a healthier sweetener.
While these two issues may not give enough credit to consumers -- who may, in fact, be wise enough to discern that "0%" means "no fat," not "no calories or no sugar," and "evaporated cane juice" is sugar, not juice -- another issue is also at play. The sheer quantity of sugar in Chobani and Fage yogurt, which is perhaps more easily misapprehended, is also an issue in the law suits. Namely, yogurt marketed as a health food product contains more sugar than an ice cream bar. According to Gothamist, the lawsuits contend that some yogurts contain as much sugar as A Nestle Fudge Bar. Indeed, said fudge ice cream bar contains 15 grams of sugar per serving, and some flavored yogurts, like Chobani's Blackberry, also contain 15 grams of sugar. Chobani's Honey Bee Nana contains 16 grams. While it's no secret that flavored yogurt can contain high quantities of sugar (yogurts contain more sugar than a Twinkie), Stoltz and Chang are seeking unspecified damages.
Finally, the plaintiffs contend that these yogurts, produced in the United States and not by Greek nationals, are further misleading. They are not, in fact, Greek in any way, they claim. Chobani countered that complaint, telling Gothamist that, "Much like English muffins and French fries, our fans understand Greek yogurt to be a product description about how we authentically make our yogurt and not about where we make our yogurt in upstate New York and Idaho."