5 Noteworthy Food Lawsuits

March 25, 2011

Earlier this week, the media reported that a woman was suing Chili's restaurants after finding a sewing needle in with her ribs and mashed potatoes. In January, Taco Bell was sued because scientific tests found its ground beef to consist of just 35% meat. In New York, a woman is suing Starbucks because a barista allegedly slid a cup of boiling hot water down the counter and yelled "Catch the cup." She did not and was scalded on her belly. Unfortunately these cases are hardly unique; lots of food-related lawsuits are filed daily. Here are five of the most notable.

1. Janine Sugawara v. PepsiCo: A woman sued PepsiCo, who makes various food products in addition to sodas, because she believed "crunchberries" were real fruit. Crunchberries are part of the "Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries" breakfast cereal. She alleged the company falsely advertised the product and misled consumers into thinking they were purchasing a product with real fruit. The woman didn't realize for four years that these colored cereal balls were not real fruit. The judge rejected her claim, and mentioned another court had rejected a lawsuit filed against the makers of "Froot Loops" for similar reasons.

2. Anna Ayala v. Wendy's: In 2005, Anna Ayala made a horrifying discovery in her bowl of Wendy's chili. A human fingertip. A swell of negative publicity ultimately cost the fast food company more than $21 million in sales. Ayala filed a lawsuit. Wendy's launched its own investigation and accounted for every fingertip on every employee's fingers. When confronted with the evidence, Ayala admitted to planting the finger in an attempt to extort money from the restaurant chain. She was sentenced to nine years in prison.

3. John Florio v. McDonald's: Veteran police officer John Florio ordered a Big Mac from the restaurant into 2005. When he bit into the order, he found shards of glass in it. Later, a man who worked as a burger flipper was accused of bringing a broken picture frame from home, grinding it into shards and placing it into the Big Mac. Florio filed a lawsuit against McDonald's and the burger flipper. Too bad, he was also making it up! A judge cleared the defendant of all wrongdoing, and found the police officer lied to authorities and even his doctor.

4. Edoardo Raspelli v. McDonald's: Another McDonald's lawsuit, but this time with a twist. The company filed a lawsuit against Italian critic Edoardo Raspelli for defamation after the man wrote some very critical comments about the restaurant. For example, "The ambience was mechanical, the potatoes were obscene and tasting of cardboard, and the bread poor. I found it alienating and vulgar." Lawyers for McDonald's called his comments "absolutely false" and said the company uses only the "finest ingredients." It's unclear where the case stands now, but the judge ordered both parties to work out their differences outside of the courtroom.

5. Athena Hohenberg v. Nutella: A California mom is suing the makers of the popular spread Nutella because she believes it makes misleading nutritional claims. Athena Hohenberg bought Nutella because she believed it was healthy for her children, but was shocked to learn it contained high levels of saturated fat and sugar. She hopes to make a class action lawsuit and to force the maker to correct misleading advertising.

Photo by walknboston



Gary Neal's picture

I think that it is slightly interesting that McDonald's is one here twice. I mean, how many times have we heard negative reviews of McDonald's? Well it just seems to be supported by this list. Do you know which attorney advertising company worked for these law firms?

Gary Neal's picture