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Alleged lack of vanilla in Starbucks vanilla frappuccino has man spitting mad - and going to court

Faulty frappuccino

A Rhode Island man who says he used to guzzle bottled Starbucks Frappuccino Chilled Coffee Drink from a supermarket across the state line in Massachusetts is now seeking millions of dollars in recompense for himself and other frap fans he says the company has deceived because there is no actual vanilla in the stuff.

In a suit filed in US District Court in Boston - possibly because Massachusetts has stronger consumer-protection laws than a place where coffee milk is the official state drink - Glen Skalubinski scalds Starbucks for its packaging:

Defendant's deception flows from the fact that the Product does not disclose, on the Product's front label, that the Product is a vanilla-flavored product that does not contain vanilla as an ingredient....

Some oil, protein, essence, or other extraction of the vanilla bean may have been used to create the Product's natural flavor. However, that natural flavor does not consist of vanilla as an ingredient as a reasonable consumer would understand. Instead, the scientists who created the Product's natural flavor would have isolated proteins from the cells of the vanilla ingredient or extracted oils or essences from the vanilla ingredient. However, because those isolated compounds may not taste like vanilla, the scientist would have combined those extractions with any other extractions from other plants and animals to create a flavoring substance that tastes like vanilla. ...

Properly indicating that the Product is flavored is not only a legal requirement, but it is a material term on which a reasonable consumer rely.

Skalubinski and his Massachusetts and Rhode Island attorneys are seeking at least $5 million in payment for all the people who bought bottles of the coffeeish drink in Massachusetts. In addition to recompense for their aghastness, the suit seeks all of Starbucks "revenues or profits" from selling the allegedly mislabeled drink in Massachusetts, attorneys' fees and interest.

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Comments

These suits are so ridiculous. I have no sympathy for anyone who can't read ingredient labels before they ingest something.

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Voting closed 41

It's not like there was an ingredient that wasn't listed, which made someone sick.

If the lawyers who motivate these suits care about solving the problem rather than just enriching themselves, they should lobby for stronger labeling laws, to give government regulators the tools to fix this efficiently.

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Voting closed 19

Do we really want a world where anyone can sell anything they want claimed to be anything, so long as 4 point font says something different?

That's not a good outcome.

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Voting closed 11

But these wasteful lawsuits are clearly not the way to achieve that outcome, since it keeps happening.

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Voting closed 11

I still think the Breyers vanilla bean ice cream lawsuit is fair play.

This one, I haven’t decided. I have been so conditioned since my youthful Hoodsies days that vanilla is, for most everyday products, a synthetic product. My grandma always baked with imitation vanilla extract. I cut my coffee teeth on medium “French vanilla” regular Dunkin Donuts coffee under no illusion that real vanilla was an actual ingredient in coffee grounds.

Although I believe it is common knowledge that, outside of high end products, ultra-expensive real vanilla is rarely a featured ingredient in vanilla products, I do think the consumer will be better served if a standard of identity of “vanilla flavored” (be it natural or artificial) be distinguished from products exclusively using real vanilla to flavor a product. So in that sense some good may come from such a lawsuit.

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Voting closed 27

People have a right to know what they are purchasing and consuming. And fine print jargon isn’t a justification.

Pretty pathetic that you would rather lick the boot of manipulative marketing than support your rights as a consumer

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Voting closed 15

These suits are so ridiculous. I have no sympathy for anyone who can't read ingredient labels before they ingest something.

These suits are awesome. I have no sympathy for consumer product companies who lie about what’s in the bottle in the large print label and then try to weasel out of the lie in the small print.

Government fair trade and truth in labeling regulators are supposed to take care of this shit, but when they don’t, these lawsuits serve to discourage lying in labels, rewarding those who do the legal work, at essentially no cost to the taxpayer.

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Voting closed 14

If these suits work so well, why does the problem keep happening?

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Voting closed 10

This is the same lawyer who filed the "My vanilla ice doesn't have real vanilla beans" lawsuit. Massachusetts has a specific frivolous lawsuit statute G.L. 231, s. 6F, (it's not applicable to pro se plaintiffs, because lawyers should know better).

Federal court judges have NO patience for frivolous suits. If it were one suit, the judge would dismiss the case is a sternly worded opinion. If there are multiple frivolous suits, an imperious federal judge like William Young will get very angry at someone wasting his precious time. I would be very concerned if I were this lawyer.

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Voting closed 15

I'd understand confusion over the drink served at Starbucks but the bottled drink lists it's ingredients.

"Natural flavor" is not meaningfully different than "Artificial flavor", it just refers to how the flavor is created, not what it consists of, per FDA regulation. If anyone is to be sued it's the FDA.

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Voting closed 13

I agree !

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Voting closed 9

When I've been on long rides in the summer and want something cold and caloric, that's one of my C-Store choice picks.

I'm not going to sue anyone but feel free to send me a coupon.

I shed no tears for Starbucks and their licensees.

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Voting closed 10

trifecta is now in play.

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Voting closed 16

Dunkin’ Donuts French Vanilla Coffee: neither French nor vanilla. Talk amongst yourselves.

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Voting closed 30

And the donuts, though they may on occasion be dunked, do not themselves do any dunkin'.

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Voting closed 10

Are disgusting .

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Voting closed 17

than companies lying about what's in their product?

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Voting closed 9

.

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Voting closed 6

  • Does the label prominently say “vanilla”?
  • Is there any vanilla in the product?
  • Is lying on product labels OK?
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Voting closed 11

More questions:

What should the financial penalty be?

Who should get that money?

If the problem keeps happening, and costs millions of dollars to resolve each time, should we consider this system to be ineffective and rethink it?

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Voting closed 7