Ah, the delight of vanilla ice cream dipped in the smooth, creamy coating of pure milk chocolate!
So don’t mess with the chocolate in Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Milk Chocolate Ice Cream Bars, Theresa Sencen demands in a class action lawsuit against Froneri US Inc., the manufacturer.
Sencen of Valley Cottage claims that Froneri is committing food fraud by labeling packages of the treats as containing milk chocolate.
The “branding and packaging of the product is designed to – and does – deceive, mislead and defraud” consumers, she claims in a complaint filed May 24 in U.S. District Court, White Plains.
Froneri spokeswoman Macarena Ivanissevich refuted the allegations.
“The labels on our Häagen-Dazs ice cream bar products accurately describe the products,comply with FDA regulations, and provide consumers with the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions,” she said.
Milk chocolate must contain at least 10% cocoa liquor, the fatty flavor that imparts a pleasant mouthfeel. Milk chocolate, the complaint states, may not contain vegetable oil, a cheaper ingredient that conveys a waxy feel and oily aftertaste.
The high melting point of cocoa fat makes it difficult to use as a coating on ice cream and frozen desserts, according to the complaint. Manufacturers can overcome the problem by using emulsifying agents or low-melting point coatings, sometimes referred to as “paddle pop paste,” that contain vegetable oils.
Such a product must be labeled truthfully under federal and New York State regulations, according to the complaint, as “milk chocolate and vegetable fat coating.”
The Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars are identified correctly, on the ingredients label on the back of the box, as containing a vegetable oil coating, namely coconut oil.
But the front of the box makes no reference to vegetable oil or coconut oil. “Milk chocolate” is part of the product name, shown prominently under an image of a chunk of chocolate. A subhead states that the vanilla ice cream is “dipped in, then drizzled in rich milk chocolate.”
Sencen claims she would not have bought Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream bars at a ShopRite store last year, or would have been willing to pay a lower price, if the product was labeled correctly.
She accuses Froneri of violating New York consumer protection laws, fraud, misrepresentation, breaches of warranty and unjust enrichment.
She is asking the court to certify the case as a class action on behalf of all New Yorkers who have bought the product. She wants the court to order Froneri to correct its practices and to pay damages totaling at least $5 million (roughly, the value of 2.3 million ice cream bars, at $6.49 per 3-bar package).
Froneri describes itself as a “global pureplay ice cream company.” It makes ice cream products under several brands, such as Cadbury, Nestlé and Toblerone.
“The claims in the lawsuit are baseless,” Ivanissevich said, “and we will vigorously defend against these allegations in court.”
Sencen is represented by attorney Spencer Sheehan of Great Neck.