Bagel Bites are inherently appealing: What’s not to love about tiny pizzas made out of miniature bagels? Granted, any time you throw a box of self-proclaimed frozen “pizza snacks” in the oven, you probably aren’t expecting a gourmet meal. Still, a recent lawsuit alleges that Bagel Bites don’t even live up to the billings on the box, misleading customers by claiming that their tiny pizzas are made with “real” mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce.
A lawsuit filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin argues that consumers are being deceived by statements on Bagel Bites’ packaging because “the Product does not contain ‘real’ mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce, as these foods are understood and expected by consumers.” Specifically, the complaint hinges on the use of fillers and thickeners by the Kraft Heinz Foods Company, which makes Bagel Bites and is named as the defendant.
For the cheese complaint, the filing states that Bagel Bites are topped with—as listed in the ingredients—”a ‘Cheese Blend’ that contains ‘part-skim mozzarella cheese’ and ‘modified food starch.'” The suit claims that “no ‘blend’ of cheese, especially ‘REAL’ mozzarella cheese, contains added starch,” later adding that it is “misleading to add filler ingredients to ‘cheese’ and still call the product cheese.”
Similarly, for the tomato sauce, the suit states that cornstarch and methylcellulose are added, allowing Kraft Heinz to “reduce the amount of tomatoes used by thirty-five percent,” later suggesting that reasonable consumers “expect a product claiming to contain ‘Tomato Sauce’ will only contain tomato ingredients and seasonings instead of thickeners.”
The lawsuit concludes, “The name, ‘Mini Bagels with Mozzarella Cheese and Tomato Sauce,’ is deceptive because mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce, as these terms are understood by consumers and regulations, are not present in the Product or are present in an amount less than expected.” The filing then claims that this allowed the product to be “sold at a premium price” and if consumers has “known the truth, they would not have bought the Product or would have paid less for it.”
The suit seeks class action status, injunctive relief to correct the alleged issues with Bagel Bites, and monetary damages as well as court costs.
“Bagel Bites, the perfect bite-sized pizza snack, are made with delicious, high-quality ingredients that our fans know and love,” A Kraft Heinz spokesperson told Food & Wine via email when reached for comment. “We proudly stand by the food we make, and are focused on bringing great products to market. The lawsuit lacks any merit, and we will strongly defend our brand.”
Interestingly, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the plaintiff filed a very similar suit in New York earlier this year; however, the attorney withdrew that suit, instead deciding to file a new claim in Wisconsin because of the important role cheese—and specifically mozzarella—plays in the state. The Sentinel adds that, in the previous New York case, Kraft Heinz argued that using some real mozzarella in a cheese blend still qualified the claim of the being made using “real” mozzarella.