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Chobani and Fage sued over sugar content claims and ‘Greekness’ of product

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Whole Foods says it will stop selling Chobani yogurt by early next year. ((PRNewsFoto/Chobani))

Two New York men are suing some of the largest producers of Greek yogurt in the U.S., accusing them of deceptive advertising.

According to the New York Post, Barry Stoltz and Allan Chang are suing Chobani and Fage in separate class action lawsuits, alleging that the companies falsely represent their product by hiding the amount of sugar in their yogurt and by calling it “Greek.”

“Defendants purposefully misrepresented and continue to misrepresent to consumers that their products contain ‘evaporated cane juice’ even though ‘evaporated cane juice’ is not ‘juice’ at all – it is nothing more than sugar dressed up to sound like a healthier sweetener,” reads the complaint.

The suit charges that the “0%” or “2%” on the top and front of their packaging is displayed without any context --leading customers to attribute any meaning they wish, such as sugar, carbohydrates, calories, or other content.

According to the Post, a similar case was dismissed in California last month over lack of evidence showing that consumers were duped by the labeling. Both Fage and Chobani list the grams of sugar on their products’ nutrition panels.  

The complaint charges that the companies marketing the yogurt as health foods when many of their flavored varieties contain as much sugar as some frozen desserts.  The suit cites the example of a Nestle Fudge Bar that contains 15 grams of sugar and Chobani’s Blackberry, which also contains 15 grams of sugar, reports Gothamist.

The plaintiffs also contend that calling them Greek yogurt further confuses customers because both companies manufactures their yogurt within the U.S.

“Much like English muffins and French fries, our fans understand Greek yogurt to be a product description about how we authentically make our yogurt and not about where we make our yogurt in upstate New York and Idaho,” Chobani told the Post.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has selected Chobani for a one-month contract to provide its yogurt to public schools in seven states.

Last school year, Greek yogurt was offered as a protein substitute to students in four states -- Arizona, New York, Idaho and Tennessee.  In three months, children consumed $300,000 worth of yogurt.

The new contract will take effect this upcoming school year from August to September. The company will provide Chobani Greek yogurt in New York, Arizona, Idaho, California, Iowa, Mississippi and Illinois.