Settlement is uncommon in its simplicity, lack of monetary award

Love Gone Sour

San Diego resident Jessica Littlejohn seems to be a committed fan of SweeTARTS candy. So are we – they’ve remained a dependably tasty American Halloween staple for more than five decades.

Over the years, Littlejohn has purchased several varieties of the product, including the original chalky tablets, the giant chewy sub-brand and the chewy sours variety.

So, what made this fangirl turn sour on SweeTARTS manufacturer Ferrara Candy?

Malic Aforethought?

We’ve covered Ferrara’s packaging tribulations before, although this time around it isn’t a slack-fill case. In this instance, Littlejohn accused the company in an April 2018 class action of failing to disclose its use of malic acid as a flavoring ingredient in the SweeTARTS line.

Malic acid comes in a few varieties, including a naturally occurring version and synthetic strains that have passed muster for human consumption. Littlejohn claims that Ferrara uses a synthetic version of the flavoring called “DL-malic” acid to flavor the treats, giving the lie to the “no artificial flavors” tag on the packaging.

The specific accusations in question? Littlejohn says Ferrara failed to note the use of malic acid on either the front or back side of the package, as required by law; called DL-malic by a generic term in its ingredients list rather than by its specific name; and failed to state that the characteristic flavor of the product (“fruit”) was bolstered with the use of an artificial flavoring that contributed to the tart taste.

The Takeaway

Littlejohn tackled Ferrara with a number of charges, including fraud by omission, negligent misrepresentation, breach of express and implied warranties, and violations of California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Law and False Advertising Law.

The parties began settlement negotiations in October of last year, and the Southern District of California granted preliminary approval at the end of February. The settlement is distinctive; the only agreement between the parties is that Ferrara promises to remove the “No Artificial Flavors” tag from the product line packaging by the end of this year, and to identify “DL-malic acid” as an ingredient by the same deadline.

But aside from attorney’s fees and other expenses, there’s no cash for the class; SweeTARTS aficionados will have to be satisfied that their class representatives sued Ferrara simply to make the world a better place.