Brookline man sours on Whole Foods yogurt, so he sues - for $5 million and change

Whole Foods yogurt cup

Label on a Whole Foods yogurt cup Knox says he bought last month.

A Brookline man who charges Whole Foods duped him into buying its 365 Everyday Value Plain Greek Yogurt by claiming it has far less sugar than it really does didn't just walk into his local Whole Foods demanding a refund - he filed a federal class-action lawsuit demanding the chain accurately label its yogurt and pay him, other purchasers and his lawyers millions of dollars for their trouble.

In a lawsuit filed last week in US District Court, Tracey M. Knox alleges Whole Foods did nothing after a scathing Consumer Reports test showed its everyday-value yogurt had 11.4 grams of sugar per serving, rather than the 2 grams claimed on the side of each and every cup of the stuff.

Among health conscious consumers, yogurt can be and is an important component of a healthy diet. For those with health conditions, such as diabetes, the accuracy of sugar content in products is extremely important. Defendant has a duty to provide accurate information on its product label and has failed to do so.

Knox, who did not specify whether he has diabetes or another condition that would require especially accurate sugar readings, did say he only bought the yogurt "because of its purported health benefits - including low sugar content."

Complete Knox complaint.

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Comments

To keep up with the Jones's

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To keep up with the Jones's in Chestnut hill Brookline , people will go to great lengths to make a quick buck. And this is one of the most foolish ways to sue a corporate company.His intent is to sue whole foods because the label on the yogurt container is not accurate . Hmmm... Babys that are not even born yet already know ahead of time , that not every thing you read is true..

Fast buck from a class action, eh?

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First, anyone who thinks filing a class action suit is (1) going to make them rich; or (2) will get them anything quickly is a numbskull. I suspect this guy thought neither.

Second, before you go impugning an entire neighborhood, you should at least have a cursory look at it instead of relying on some stupid Herald-type stereotype.

I'd venture to say that few if anyone is able to live in the neighborhood by virtue of suing people (and that includes the dwindling number of lawyers who live in the neighborhood). The people in the neighborhood are much more likely be sued rather than to be suing, as it seems that nearly everyone who lives here now is either a surgeon or is involved in finance in general and hedge-type funds in particular (and even the docs are being pushed out now by the million dollar bonus finance people).

[Full disclosure, I live in the neighborhood, and my household is (at best) in the bottom 30% of the income distribution].

What makes her think the

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What makes her think the sugar nutritional value is inaccurate? Seems like she is the type who spends a lot of time looking for flaws so she can sue..

Him/he

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Added a link to the complete complaint above.

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Whole Paycheck

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uses deceptive business practices? Who'd have thunk it?

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Seriously!

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Thank you Adam for having the initiative to actually read the complaint! BBJ misidentifies sex of plaintiff and flavor of yogurt.

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What an asshat.

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I have honestly no idea how this carb vs sugars thing works--9G of "sugars" in unsweetened yogurt sounds high to me--all lactose, right? It says 16G of carbs so if you're actually a carb-counting diabetic that's the number you'd look to, not the "sugars." But honestly...I can't imagine two grown up people sitting around in a lawyer's office deciding that this was a great idea. I hope this idiot--it seems unclear whether "Tracey" is make or female--gets the boot and has to pay court costs for this trivial, stupid, time-wasting crap.

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2 vs 11.4

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Well, if the lab tests were accurate there is a big different between "11.4 grams of sugar per serving, rather than the 2 grams".
But $5,000,000?? Must be a little crazy. And I say that as someone who needs to constantly count my sugar and carb intake. If I found out a label was misleading I would just shrug and not buy it anymore.

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$5M not just for him

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It's for him and all the other people who bought the stuff. And the lawyers. Especially the lawyers.

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Actually, it would be $4.99

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million for the lawyers. The other $10,000 will then be distributed among Whole Foods 40,000 customers, who will each get a check in the mail for 25 cents - even if they never bought the yogurt.

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Lesson to be learned

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If there is a lesson to be learned from this, it's that you can file a law suit for anything your mind can dream. America.

Correction: you can file a

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Correction: you can file a lawsuit for anything you can pay a lawyer for, or persuade a lawyer to take as a contingency. Don't believe me? Just try it.

I concur

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Health issues or not, I think they have an ethical obligation to provide accurate nutrition info. 2g vs 11g is a pretty big leap.

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I blame libertarianism. In

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I blame libertarianism. In the battle between big business and the individual, libertarians invariable side with big business.

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as a libertarian

I disagree with your incorrect notion, Libertarians invariably side with individual rights.

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Lying, cheating...huh?

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Jeeze. You really think there's some kind of nefarious, Monty Burns-esque character behind the scenes at Whole Foods calculating how much more they can make if they...fudge the grams of sugar on the yogurt? Again...the carbs are on there. It's no great mystery if you're really counting this stuff. The idea that it's this crazy plot AND that it's somehow worth court time OR $5 million? Come on. I eat a ton of yogurt (though I prefer Fage) but honestly--who gives a crap?

Right

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Because this issue is SO important that a person can demand to fleece a business for an undeserved LOTTERY PAYMENT.

Find out the yogurt isn't as healthy as you thought - then DON"T BUY IT anymore!!!!

Frivilous lawsuits like this one are destroying this country.

You appear to have misread the complaint

Find out the yogurt isn't as healthy as you thought - then DON"T BUY IT anymore!!!!

The issue isn't that "yoghurt isn't as healthy as [the complainant] thought." The issue appears to be that the vendor is lying on the label.

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So, expalin how inaccurate information

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on a yogurt container justifies a person demanding a $5 million LOTTERY payout!

In onw word - FRIVILOUS. In another word - PATHETIC.

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I don't know

I don't know, maybe it's unreasonable, maybe not. What if one million people bought the yoghurt and each gets a $5 off your next purchase at WF coupon? That's why we have a court system to adjudicate the reasonableness of the claim.

Good for him!

I'm all in favor of this lawsuit. One of the bigger disgraces of the national government is the lack of oversight by the USDA/FDA. Companies shouldn't be allowed to "fudge" their nutritional information or ingredient lists yet this is common as companies figure it's easier to modify the label then the contents to appeal to a wider market or to get a leg up on the competition.

If the government isn't going to enforce these rules, let the courts and citizens. If Whole Foods, etc is hit with enough big lawsuits maybe they'll think twice before marketing a product one way and producing it another. I'd give a break to small producers whose nutritional content might change batch to batch but that isn't the case with a large company like Whole Foods that maintains strict manufacturing processes.

Good luck with the case! When you get done with that one I'm sure you can find plenty more.

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I'm sure all of us will

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I'm sure all of us will really appreciate paying higher food prices on EVERYTHING so that a few parasitic lawyers can make a mint.

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You much to learn

You obvious have no idea how products are priced. Hint, it has little to do with the cost of manufacturing them, even including lawsuits. Whole Foods might charge $5 for the pint of yogurt even though it cost them $1 to make. They charge $5 as this is the magic unit that they believe enough consumers will pay to make them the greatest profit. If their costs went up to $2 to make the pint they'd still charge $5 but make a dollar less. They won't raise their price to $6 as this would only decease sales. Furthermore, a company like Whole Foods has already put aside some large amount of money for inevitable lawsuits and payouts -- all large companies do.

If they find that lawsuits due to mislabeled food is decreasing profits they will either stop deceptively labeling the food or lobby to have laws changed which lets them continue to defraud customers.

It is hard to believe anyone is in favor of company purposefully lying about the contents of their products. You would rather have no idea what goes into your food? You might as well eat nothing but 7-11 hotdogs.

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So--you have evidence that this was deliberate?

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Again--all part of a giant yogurt conspiracy? Read the label. It has the carbohydrates listed--16G. Dietary fiber--1G. As far as I can discover, the "sugars"--and mind this does not mean table sugar but lactose, fructose, etc--is equal to the carbs minus the dietary fiber so there's clearly a mistake here but unless there's some kind of demonstrated pattern here, this whole thing is beyond ridiculous. No one to whom sugar content is remotely important would say "oh, 16g of carbs but only 2g of sugar--yahoo!" And to clarify again--this goes not mean that they dumped some Domino's in the yogurt. Milk has lactose in it, the same way a cantelope has fructose. This is just a pathetic money grab--maybe the guy's trying to pay off his legal bills from the assault charges?

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Why so defensive about

Why so defensive about defending a multi-billion dollar corporation? They have more than enough lawyers on staff and standby to knock this thing away like a gnat.

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Because stuff like this turns us all into greedy, lying morons.

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I mean really. Are you actually saying that because a company has deep pockets then hey--we should all sue them for every meaningless thing we can drum up? It's a con and nothing more--there's no harm done, no demonstrable pattern of anything. It's not like they were selling cat meat disguised as beef or outdated food or again--pouring sugar into their unsweetened yogurt. The idea that people think it's ok to pursue this kind of litigious scam just because they don't like a company or because they're a big, evil corporation and they can afford it makes me crazy, I admit.

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No, I never said that. But

No, I never said that. But anyone can sue anyone else for anything in America. Doesn't mean the suit is legitimate or is ever going anywhere. I expect this one will go nowhere as well. In a land of many injustices, I am not going to shed a tear for Whole Foods here who can easily afford to dispatch their attorneys to make this disappear quickly and will have zero impact on their bottom line.

Wal-Foods is the greedy lying

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Wal-Foods is the greedy lying morons. They are the ones who can't bother to be truthful in their labeling, can you prove it was an accident? Did they change the label after Consumer Reports showed they were mislabeling -no.
When Ford realized they had a car that exploded and could kill people, they calculated the amount it would cost to recall vs the amount to pay the wrongful death claims and decided it was cheaper for them to have people die and pay the claims. Wal-Foods may have calculated the amount they would earn in people buying the "low sugar" yogurt vs the amount that would return it would be higher. Last week 2 days in a row Wal-Foods charge a friend 2x the price it was labeled, she caught them luckily since she was buying a lot of things. But deception is integral to Wal-Foods, see the "Local, Local, Local" signs everywhere in this Texas based chain, or the owners illegal posting on finance forums. No one is surprised they got caught lying again, but someone (this guy perhaps) needs to make them pay so its not part of their business plan.

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Well, from the perspective of

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Well, from the perspective of a non-diabetic average Joe, when I read labels I pretty much look to calories, serving size, fat, sugar, and fiber. I sometimes make decisions based on the relative numbers in these categories. I don't do calculations and fact-checking while I'm in the grocery aisle because I expect the labels to be accurate. Because they are required to be. When they're not, there should be consequences to the company for being deceptive. Like other posters have commented, a refund or loss of my future purchases of that yogurt is not going to be a big enough hit in the pocket to send them the message. Consumers should be able to rely on the labels to know what they are getting.

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This is the issue with right

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This is the issue with right wing corporations like wal-foods who whine and complain about regulations, unions, the federal government, etc. and say "the market" will take care of everything. But then they lie and cheat so "the market" is totally biased and full of lies that the best companies dont win, its the ones that lie and cheat and win in court. Wal-Foods hasn't been able to compete in the market lately (the right leaning economist just had an article about how they are begining to fail) so they just buy out the comeptition (like Johnny's or Hi-Low so you dont have any option other than them.

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It's a typo. Stuff happens.

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It's a typo. Stuff happens.

Give him a refund on the yogurt. If he can prove that having a few grams be sugars instead of starches caused him to gain weight, give him a free gym membership.

I'm convinced it has to be a

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I'm convinced it has to be a typo.

Carbs consist of starches, sugars, and fiber. Yogurt is not full of starch, so the non-fiber carbs have to be mostly sugar.

Yes, Whole Foods should have corrected the mistakes with stickers, or pulled the product. If they'd done that, there would be no case, instead of a $3.99 case.

Brookline

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Gotta eat the right amount of exactly the right kind of yogurt so your shit don't stink.

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My only issue with this is,

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My only issue with this is, if you've done food shopping for a diabetic you could be in trouble. I love yogurt but it does have a lot of sugar.

I've shopped for a diabetic before and always scan the nutrition labels. If I saw 2 gr of sugar, I may think it was acceptable to eat.

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Sigh.

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Full disclosure and maybe this is why this case bugs me--I am diabetic--type 1. Yes--knowing about the sugar content is important but any diabetic with a brain would be counting the carbs, not the "sugars." In any case, unsweetened yogurt is not going to send your sugars soaring--there's enough fat and protein in there to slow down the absorption of carbohydrates. Yogurt with actual sugar added or fruit which is often highly sweetened and jam-like is a different story but most diabetics will be more likely to get high blood sugar from eating potatoes or a bagel.

Ahhh yes, you do know you're

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Ahhh yes, you do know you're not the only one with a brain! I often wonder how did my mom live so long without your wisdom!!!.

Really, your post comes off a bit strong. My mom, borderline with age onset diabetes had to give up her potatoes for the most part (yes, we know about carbs-go figure!), but watched her sugars like a hawk - as diabetics should.
She'd never eat yogurt because it really has a lot of sugar for it's portion.

Sigh.

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Unsweetened yogurt is not going to send anyone's blood sugars skyrocketing. It's just not. I've been dealing with this for 20 plus years and trust me--I know what a PITA it is but all the more reason to be disgusted by a frivolous lawsuit about what appears to be a typo or math mistake, filed allegedly on behalf of people like me to "save" us from the perils of Greek yogurt.

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Look, I'm not interested in a

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Look, I'm not interested in a pissing contest and neither are you. Just to clarify - I wasn't talking about unsweetened yogurt, which in my opinion must taste horrible on its own.

But, as someone who is not diabetic or someone whose not as familiar with dietary habits of diabetics, I may pick up one of these yogurts and think - "hey 2 grams of sugar ain't that bad".

That is all......

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It's good with fruit. :-)

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Or granola or a little honey. I use it more for savory, Middle Eastern recipes. Sorry if I got too testy--this kind of frivolous lawsuit stuff makes me crazy. If this guy had gained 100 lbs or yes--gone into a diabetic coma because of mislabeled food, that might be different.

Ok to lie to you

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Just as long as you can't prove you were hurt by it...well, not substantially or immediately enough that you would be satisfied that it was the yogurt's fault anyways.

Sounds like battered wife syndrome to me. They didn't mean to do it. I'm sure I caused them to lie to me. I could have asked them to stop lying to me but I didn't because I didn't want to upset them. Look, if I end up in a diabetic coma, then I could have a reason to get the courts involved. I just don't want anything frivolous like authorities to get involved.

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Disturbing

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I'm rather disturbed that there are people here opposing this lawsuit considering it's the correct action to force a company to correctly label its food's content label if it can be shown to be wrong.

Think about that. If you oppose this lawsuit, then you are arguing that it's okay for a corporation to straight up lie to you about what it's offering you. "Horse meat? No, we wrote ground beef on the label, didn't you read it? I don't care what your DNA analysis said is in it." Whole Foods has declared one amount of sugars on its label and a chemanalysis found a completely different value that more closely resembles numbers found in nearly every other yogurt. The correct action is to complain and if that goes nowhere, then your only recourse is to involve the courts to make the company change its lying ways.

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People would rather try and

People would rather try and protect a multi-billion dollar company like Whole Foods for some reason, a company that does not need the average Joe to look out for its interests.

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When did become Universal Lawyers Hub?

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This whole thread is just embarrassing to read. Over 9 grams of lactose--we need $5 million lawsuits to protect the "average Joe." It's not exactly A Civil Action, folks.

What is your proposed alternative

The error on the label may or may not have been an innocent typo. Put that aside for a second. The facts appear to be that the label is misleading, that it gives their product a comparative advantage over competing products, and they did not correct it when the error was pointed out. What, other than bringing legal action to compel them to obey the law, would you propose?

Oh, I don't know--maybe wait for more than 2 weeks for them to..

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correct the error?

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2014/07/a-whole-foods-365-greek-...

Consumer Reports published the story on July 17, 2014. It says they're working with their vendor. Meantime, no one is getting ill, getting fat, succumbing to ketoacidosis or suffering any ill effects from this egregious error. I just think that maybe the greedy ambulance chasers--oh, sorry, I mean the plaintiff and his lawyers could just hold their horses a teeny bit, dontcha think?

Except...

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WE only know about it for the past two weeks because Consumer Reports tested it and announced it. Consumer Reports tested it and contacted them prior to that (length of time unknown). They've been printing the labels this way before two weeks ago (again, length of time unknown).

Finally, it's not like we can rely on the FDA to administer their rules regarding nutrition labels being correct.

http://www.academymedical.com/blog/fda-falls-short-on-enforcing-nutritio...

So, maybe a few fast and hard lawsuits will get the attention of corporations that are "self-policing" so poorly that we're having to figure out years later when we're being lied to. They're big boys. They'll get over it.

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Hell yeah.

It's only a matter of time before they put sawdust back in flour again.

And there have been significant actions over an assortment of tainted food messes in China in the past 5 years..

Some of it was imported here.

Capitalism is too basically useful when done right to let it get distorted by parasites and predators.

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If the sole purpose of the lawsuit were to get

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a court to order Whole Foods to properly label their items and stop their alleged deceptive practices, then I might be in agreement here.

However, the problem I have in cases like this is when people argue that they should receive UNJUSTIFIED cash "damages" for issues where they've suffered no real harm whatsoever, on the basis of "big company = deep pockets" that increasingly drives such nonsense.

How about, instead,

However, the problem I have in cases like this is when people argue that they should receive UNJUSTIFIED cash "damages" for issues where they've suffered no real harm whatsoever, on the basis of "big company = deep pockets" that increasingly drives such nonsense.

How about, instead of "UNJUSTIFIED", you look at it as a reward for getting a problem fixed. Nobody else took the time and effort to file the suit, which, if the facts are correct, needed to be filed.

Not just a reward

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It's also a punishment. Who knows how long they've been lying about this and getting away with it. If "consumerism" is supposed to allow informed consumers make the best choices as to what market players will win or lose and the market players are lying in order to capture more consumers, then how is that a level playing field?

Further, take the fine away and have the court tell them "fix your label". Great...so they print a new label and keep going. That's ONE ingredient on ONE label out of an entire store of labels that could be wrong. Absolutely what impetus do they have to print any one of those other labels correctly? All they have to do is print anything and wait until you or I figure it out and fix that ONE ingredient on ONE label again, rinse and repeat. Meanwhile, the labels are convincing others to buy their food over competitors, etc. No, there has to be real consequences if we're going to allow them to self-regulate. We, by way of the FDA, allow them to handle this as to do it at the FDA would be insane amounts of work. But that means we're trusting a fox in the henhouse not to eat the hens. If he does, there has to be severe punishment or else why would he not eat a hen if all he gets is scolded instead of scalded?

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No, the point of these type

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No, the point of these type of punitive damages is to create a disincentive for the company to use deceptive practices, or whatever the complaint is. If its just for 3.99 then Whole Foods will continue to do these types of things (they didn't stop after Consumer Reports reported them, but you can bet they would if they lost a large lawsuit and knew they could be liable for deceptive practices in the future. Whole Foods already has to properly label their products and cannot use deceptive practices according to the law, but that is not stopping them. Its like saying if someone robs a bank they shouldn't have to go to jail, they should just have to return the money if they are caught. That would lead to a lot more bank robberies.

There have already been

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There have already been plenty of such suits with punitive damages. Yet this just happened again.

It sounds like the punitive damages system is not accomplishing its supposed goal of preventing this problem. It is, however, making lawyers rich, which is why the system hasn't been changed.