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McCormick spices are an American tradition. From pepper to vanilla, and everything in between, most people have at least one or two McCormick products in their pantry. Some will probably make an appearance in your kitchen during the holiday cooking and baking season—and when they do, make sure you take a closer look.
A controversy has arisen around McCormick’s black pepper, one of the most recognizable in the business. A lawsuit is alleging that McCormick is using misleading packaging to pull a fast one on their consumers. The company has decreased the amount of pepper they put in their famous tins by 1/2-2 ounces, depending on the size of the tin. They did not decrease the tin size, however. Since the container is opaque, unless consumers are paying really close attention to the labeling, it wouldn’t be obviously that they’re getting less pepper from the same-sized container.
Competing pepper company Watkins Inc. is calling foul. They claim that McCormick is the latest brand to mislead customers and make it appear as though their tins contain more pepper than they actually do. The Watkins suit has been combined with a consumer class-action suit that will go forward in January in federal court.
This isn’t the first time manufacturers have come under fire for what they allege to be misleading packaging. Consumers sued Pfizer in 2015, alleging that the drug manufacturer misled consumers into thinking Advil bottles contained more pills than they did. The judge threw this one out though, pointing out that the bottles clearly displayed the quantity of pills.
And earlier this year consumers initiated a lawsuit against baby product manufacturer Babyganics, claiming the company’s name is intended to mislead customers into believing their products are organic though they actually only contain small amounts of organic ingredients.
One of the best ways to ensure you are getting the best deal for your dollar is to read the price per unit/price per ounce tags that most grocery stores display on store shelves. That way you won’t need to rely on packaging to understand which brand is truly offering the best deal.
What do you think? Is McCormick playing fair or dealing dirty? Should they be required to alert consumers to the fact that their tins now contain less pepper?