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June 17, 2019

Barilla Settles Class Action on Underfilled Boxes

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:46 am

Back in 2016, four Italian consumers sued Barilla, the largest pasta maker in world for misleading packaging. They alleged that the company sells specialty pastas like gluten-free, whole grain, “ProteinPlus,” etc. in the same size cardboard boxes as their traditional pastas. There is only one problem — the specialty boxes are the same size as the regular boxes but typically contain 25-percent less pasta, 12 ounces instead of the usual 16 ounces.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Barilla 12oz vs 16oz

In this case, the boxes head-on appear identical, and they are equal depth front to back. But there is more empty space inside that the shopper is not able to detect until purchasing the product. This is known as “slack fill” — non-functional empty space — and it is illegal under federal law and some state laws. (Pictures of the gluten-free and whole grain boxes are shown in the lawsuit above.)

Late last year, the company decided to settle without admitting any guilt and the case is now closed. Purchasers of Barilla will get nothing other than satisfaction that the company has agreed to make a disclosure on the box and also include a “fill line.”

It should be pointed out that Barilla is not alone in selling partially filled pasta boxes. For example, Prince engages in the same practice as demonstrated by these two spaghetti boxes that are both the same size but one has 25-percent less product.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Prince spaghetti

Notably, Stop & Shop and Giant’s store brand has taken appropriate steps to put some of their 12-ounce pastas in thinner boxes than the one-pound size.

*MOUSE PRINT:

SS rotini front
SS rotini top

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8 Comments

  1. As an avid label reader, this “whole wheat gets 12oz. instead of 16oz.” has been apparent for years. Thankfully, awhile ago, I discovered that Ronzoni does not play that game. All their pastas, of regular or whole wheat (blue box vs. brown box), contain 16 ounces.

    Comment by Marty — June 17, 2019 @ 6:46 am
  2. that the company has agreed to make a disclosure on the box and also include a “fill line.”

    ________

    So that means that it must be cheaper for the company to make 16oz boxes than to make a special sized 12oz box.

    Comment by richard Ginn — June 17, 2019 @ 8:59 am
  3. There is no reason why ALL pastas shouldn’t be 16 ounces! The pound box is traditional and a necessary for recipes. If production costs more for specialty pastas, then adjust the cost to consumers accordingly.

    Comment by Frankie — June 17, 2019 @ 10:14 am
  4. Slack fill is the bane of grocery shopping and as tough as it is consumers are going to have to learn to read the boxes of everything they buy. I value the services provided by this blog as it helps to teach me what to look out for, but cases like this make it obvious that there could definitely be more harsh punishments for breaking these types of consumer protection laws. Seeing that they will not accept any blame really bothers me and I’d honestly have prefered my tax dollars pay for a lengthy court case if it means they have to publicly admit fault.

    Comment by Joel — June 17, 2019 @ 10:28 am
  5. One thing is 100% sure here. The shape of the pasta is different in each box.

    Barilla though is going to claim that the Collezione is crafted using traditional Italian bronze plates.

    I would say even the regular plain blue box one is made the same way though.

    The price though for the Collezione is like 1 buck more a box and you get 4oz less of pasta.

    The ingredients for both pastas are like the same. I say you are just getting hosed on price.

    Comment by richard Ginn — June 17, 2019 @ 12:11 pm
  6. One thing not mentioned in this story is that if you weigh the contents of a box of pasta you will find it weighs slightly less than the weight shown. Maybe this is due to loss of water weight over time but it is consistently the case in my experience. Never will you find it weighs more than the stated weight. Same for Walmart ground beef.

    Edgar replies: Bob, I am surprised to hear this. Most major mfrs have sophisticated weighing systems… and if anything, it should be right on the button, or a hair higher. Weights and measures officials usually weigh a sample of a particular brand and as long as the average meets the stated net contents, there is no issue. If you are consistently seeing less in each box (and your scale is absolutely accurate, please report this to your city, county or state weights and measures department.

    Comment by Bob — June 17, 2019 @ 1:32 pm
  7. So plaintiffs’ lawyers make a ton of money, but the members of the class get zippo These lawyers should be ashamed of themselves.

    Comment by hmc — June 17, 2019 @ 8:19 pm
  8. Of course, “slack fill” will never be an environmental issue. Why is it OK to continually downsize products but waste resources in oversized packaging? Not to mention the extra volume of garbage as a result. This is one of those issues that’s never addressed.

    Comment by Renée — June 24, 2019 @ 10:03 am

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