Food-related lawsuits: an American pastime. A federal judge in Chicago recently ruled that a lawsuit against Inventure Foods, the makers of TGI Fridays’ mozzarella-stick-inspired snacks, could move forward. The plaintiff claims that TGI Fridays Mozzarella Sticks Snacks are “misbranded,” since they contain cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella.
The plaintiff had purchased the chips (which sort of look like Cheetos) on Amazon in January 2021 because, according to her, the packaging and name really make it sound like there was going to be mozzarella in them. A month later, she sued both Inventure and TGI Fridays. May we all move through the world like someone who expects a TGI Fridays–branded snack product to include fresh cheese molded by the weathered hands of an old Italian man in the Tuscan countryside.
The judge ruled that the suit could move forward against Inventure but not against TGI Fridays, since the chain doesn’t actually make the snack. Who knows how this will play out, but one thing’s for sure: This plaintiff joins the legion of consumers over the years who take things very literally, and will get the legal system involved.
Of course, many if not most food lawsuits that make it into national headlines are more than justified (like when Cracker Barrel served cleaning chemicals to a customer?!), but it does bring up the question of how egregious a food violation has to be before someone lawyers up, especially when it comes to alleged mislabeling.
It does take a certain level of plausibility to even get the case heard. Earlier this year, a judge threw out a lawsuit claiming that Kellogg’s misrepresented the strawberry content in strawberry Pop-Tarts, saying that no one would actually think that Pop-Tarts filling is just made of strawberries. However, the Subway tuna lawsuit was allowed to move forward this year, in part because it cited a marine biologist who claimed that 20 samples of tuna from 20 Subway restaurants yielded no tuna DNA sequences. TGI Fridays branded food has already been the subject of an earlier lawsuit, in which a case against its “Potato Skins” snacks was eventually dropped, so the mozzarella content of these mozzarella-stick-flavored chips might not end up being a landmark court case.