Edoardo Fornaciari/Getty Images for Barilla
What would it be like to live in a world where everything printed in an ad or said in an ad is true, without you having to read the fine print?
It seems that’s the world that Matthew Sinatro and Jessica Prost seek to build, at least as far as spaghetti is concerned.
The two are behind a class action lawsuit against pasta-maker Barilla, which they claim is deliberately misleading shoppers by using the slogan “The No.1 pasta brand in Italy” on its packaging.
Despite the stylized green, white and red Italian flags displayed on blue boxes of angel hair, fusilli and bow tie pasta, a complaint filed in Northern California notes that the majority of the company’s products sold in the United States are made in Iowa and New York and are not made with ingredients sourced from Italy.
Do people pay more for the idea of products made in Italy? Complainants say sure
Sinatro and Prost claim in their complaint that they were duped by the company’s alleged “false advertising” and deceptive marketing practices and that they would not have spent a combined total of $6 on Barilla products if they had known that the pasta they brought home was made in the United States. Instead, they would have opted for cheaper alternatives.
“[C]Consumers willingly pay more for products that sound and/or look Italian, “and Barilla has taken advantage of the implicit connection to Italy”[i]for the purpose of increasing profits and gaining an unfair competitive advantage,” the complaint states.
Barilla did not respond to NPR’s requests for comment, but the company addresses the issue on its website.
Only two of the pastas sold in the United States by Barilla come from Italy
“Barilla Pasta sold in the United States is made in our facilities in Ames, IA, and Avon, NY, with some exceptions. Barilla Tortellini and Barilla Oven Ready Lasagna are made in Italy,” the website states.
The site also notes that the recipes used in the United States are the same as those used in Parma, Italy, and that the pasta is made by the same types of machines. The company’s 2021 financial report states that the United States “continues to represent the world’s largest market. [Americas] Region.”
Court documents show Barilla asked for the case to be dismissed, arguing that Sinatro and Prost could not prove that they suffered financial harm. Sinatro, who lives in San Francisco, bought a box of angel hair pasta for about $2, while Prost bought two boxes of spaghetti for about $2 each from a Los Angeles grocery store, according to the complaint.
The company decided to drop the case in August, but a judge denied the request last week.
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