Modified: November 16, 2022

Man Sues Hot Sauce Maker after He Reads the Bottle – False Advertising?

A California man is suing a hot sauce maker for deceiving the public into believing they made tasty red pepper sauce in Texas. Let’s explore the details of the class action lawsuit and California false advertising laws with Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys.

Man Sues Hot Sauce Maker after He Reads the Bottle of Texas Pete Hot Sauce

A man sued a hot sauce company, TW Garner Food Co, after realizing that they didn’t make the “Texas Pete hot sauce” in Texas, as evident from the name but was made in North Carolina, where T.W. Garner Food Company was based in.

The man suing the hot sauce company, Philip White, filed the lawsuit against the company in the US District Court in California.

Texas Pete Is Not Made in Texas but Made in North Carolina, Complaint States

According to the complaint filed by Philip White on September 12, 2022, the geographic origin of a product is what the consumers consider before purchasing one, and the company deceived its consumers by producing Texas Pete hot sauce in Winston-Salem, North Carolina instead.

The Plaintiff Did Not Buy the Origin Story of the Texas Pete Hot Sauce on the Garner Food Co Website

The company website states how the North Carolina company named its brand of hot sauce the Texas Pete hot sauce. According to the website, Sam Garner and his sons created a new spicy hot sauce and planned to label it the Mexican Joe due to the state’s love affair with spicy cuisine.

However, Mexican Joe would not sit well with consumers nationwide, and they needed an American name. So Sam decided to stick with Texas since it was across Mexico, and both shared a spicy palette. His son, Harold’s nickname, was Pete which is how the Texas Pete hot sauce was born.

Garner Food Co Cheated Its Way to Climb to the Top of the Authentic Texas Hot Sauce Market, Plaintiff Attorneys Claim

Clarkson Law Firm, P.C in California, representing Philip White, did not appreciate the name, claiming that Garner Food cheated its way to a market-leading position in a $3 billion hot sauce industry.

According to the complaint, they cheated the Americans desiring authentic Texas hot sauce by providing them with standard Louisiana-style hot sauces under the Texas Pete brand produced in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The complaint also references a 2014 Triad Business Journal article as evidence that many believe the hot sauce is from the Lone Star state, especially with their Texas Pete cowboy picture.

“False Advertising” Laws in California

False advertising about the nature of the product and service in California is illegal under the Business and Professions Code 17500. The law covers misleading statements in print, digital, or any other form of media.

False advertising examples include the following:

  • A clothing company advertising all their products as made in America when it is actually made in China.
  • A pharmaceutical company claims that its medicine is clinically proven to provide the stated benefits, but in reality, there is no proof of any benefits.
  • A beverage company advertises one of its products as zero calories, but it has more than 150 calories.

Penalties Under BPC 17500

Any company or person violating the BPC 17500 is guilty of a misdemeanor which is punishable by up to six months imprisonment, a fine of up to $2,500, or a combination of both.

The prosecutor must prove the following if they are to prosecute the defendant for false advertising:

  • The business or individual made a misleading statement about the goods or services.
  • The business or individual knew or should’ve known that their statement was false.

Besides crime, violating the BPC 17500 is also a civil wrong for which the company or individual may face civil lawsuits or injunctions.

Defenses Available for the Defendant

Overzealous prosecutors may file charges against innocent businesses, which is why there are three common defenses available to the defendant, including the following:

  • Truthful advertising: False advertising has to be misleading, but if the advertising contains an honest mistake, the defendant can claim that, and in that case, the error would not be in violation of the law.
  • No deception: For something to be false advertising, it must deceive the public, and deceiving the public is a broad and subjective standard.
  • No knowledge: There is also no conviction unless the accuser knew what they were doing or should’ve known. A defendant may prove they did not know they were participating in false marketing.

Lawsuits Ramping up in the Food and Beverage Industry

Just like the lawsuit against the Texas Pete brand name, there continues to be an increasing number of suits in the food and beverage industry, including the following:

  • A lawsuit against Mars alleged that the company misrepresented by stating “tastes like vanilla” when it didn’t use natural vanilla.
  • A lawsuit against Frito-Lay North America alleging the chip’s manufacturer stated “hint of lime” when it didn’t use actual limes.
  • A lawsuit against TGI Friday’s for claiming that their product was “onion snacks” when they didn’t use any onions.

The courts dismissed all these lawsuits and hundreds more. If the courts ruled in favor of these lawsuits, millions of suits would make their way to US courts. For example, a famous Chinese restaurant, “Chengdu Taste,” in California, serves authentic cuisine in the Californian kitchen. Should a customer file lawsuit against them for false advertising or deception?

Top Notch American Injury Lawyer, Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline

Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.

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