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Slack-Fill Case Against Barilla Dismissed

Five years ago, a group of New York consumers sued Barilla claiming that their pasta packages were misleading. In their complaint, they demonstrated that the company used the same size boxes even though the contents varied from 12 to 16 ounces.


Barilla pasta
Barilla spaghetti

Putting 12 ounces of spaghetti in a box made for a full pound can well be classified as “slack fill.” That term refers to the nonfunctional empty air space in a product package that can lead shoppers to believe they are getting more content than they actually are because of the size of the package. Most boxed pasta sold is 16 ounces.

We thought this case had been settled in 2019 as we reported at the time because they seemingly came to agreement to have the company place a disclosure and a fill-line on each box. But recently the plaintiffs dismissed their case against Barilla without explanation. We asked two law firms involved in the litigation why the case was withdrawn but neither responded. The lead attorney on the case passed away in January, so perhaps that is a reason.

Using underfilled pasta boxes is not only an issue with Barilla products but with other name and store brands as well. The lesson: don’t assume you are getting a full pound… read the net weight statement.

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10 thoughts on “Slack-Fill Case Against Barilla Dismissed”

  1. It is pretty obviously intentional too. Look at the way the boxes are designed. I think this is a pretty despicable practice. It’s funny that the product most people complain about in regards to slack fill (potato ships) is one of the few products that can justify the excess air and products like this just fly under the radar.

    If they were almost to an agreement in 2019, why had they not settled by 2021? Does this mean the whole issue would have to be relitigated from the beginning now?

    • Joel… There was a ruling about a year ago by a judge who rejected their proposed settlement and class certification because it did not provide a remedy for all class members.

  2. What’s the big deal? The weight is clearly listed on the package. When I grocery shop, I check those weights all the time. We consumers have to do a little work now and then.

  3. The weight on the label is not always accurate either. I have often found I got less than I paid for. On two recent occasions I found Galbani 1 lb. mozzarella cheese half an ounce short. The first time this happened I complained and they sent me a coupon for a free cheese.

  4. The class was decertified. After that the plaintiffs moved to dismiss the cases WITH PREJUDICE, which the court approved. There’s something rotten in the State of Pastaville. My guess is the plaintiffs and their lawyers got some money from Barilla to give up.

  5. Read the label folks. I also agree with RG below, same size packaging for all products saves money!

  6. I’m a label reader but I still get incensed when there is intentional packaging slack. However, in the examples above, both comparisons are using different products. It’s common for a specialized product (such as gluten free or high protein) to sell at a price premium (or contents reduction). The unethical illusion still applies, because the naive specialty buyer is duped to thinking it’s the same amount of product as the regular version. They dump 12 ounces of pasta into their standard 16 oz recipe and realize it too late.

    Another cost to consumers on slack is product damage. Cartons of most dry goods need to be packed snugly so they don’t shift/agitate in transit and get damaged. The notion that they are saving money by using a universal package size is absurd with their economies of scale. And they save real money in dimensional weighting whenever they ship/warehouse less air.

  7. As a consumer, I’m sensitive to these kinds of packaging shenanigans but on the other hand, people have to read the labels and not just assume it is the same size/weight/volume. For decades now, products have been downsizing. They used to come in 8 oz, 1 lb, 32 oz, 64 oz, 1 gallon etc. delineations but that has irrevocably changed for a long time now. Orange juice used to be in 64 oz bottle, then 62, 59, 54, and now it’s only 52 oz. Just assuming something is a certain weight because it has “always” been a certain weight and then file a law suit is frivolous and waste of time and money.

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