When you want your microwaved shells and cheese, you don’t want to waste time fooling around.
A apparently time-strapped Hialeah woman, Amanda Ramirez, says she wouldn’t have purchased Velveeta’s microwavable Shells & Cheese cups if she had known they would have taken longer to be ready than the 3½ minutes stated on the box.
Ramirez is the lead plaintiff in a proposed federal class action lawsuit accusing Kraft Heinz Foods Company, maker of the product, of violating state and federal laws against deceptive and unfair trade practices, fraud, false and misleading advertising, breach of express warranty, negligent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment.
The suit was filed on Nov. 18 in U.S. District Court in Miami by William Wright of the West Palm Beach-based firm The Wright Law Office, P.A. and by Spencer Sheehan of Spencer & Associates, P.C. in Great Neck, New York.
Ramirez bought the product — a box of eight 2.39-ounce cups — at locations including a Publix supermarket in Hialeah “between October and November 2022, among other times,” the suit states, adding she paid “a premium price” of $10.99.
A graphic printed on the bottom right corner of the front of the box states, “Ready in 3½ minutes.”
The 3½ minutes is the amount of time the product needs to cook in a microwave, the suit says. But more time is required to complete the four steps needed to get it ready to eat, the suit states.
Quoting the directions on the box, the suit says:
First, consumers must “REMOVE lid and Cheese Sauce Pouch.”
Next, they must “ADD water to fill line in cup. Stir.”
Third, “MICROWAVE, uncovered, on HIGH 3½ min. DO NOT DRAIN.”
Finally, they should “STIR IN In contents of cheese sauce pouch.”
The complaint adds that the directions then note that “Cheese Sauce Will Thicken Upon Standing.”
“Consumers seeing ‘ready in 3½ minutes’ will believe it represents the total amount of time it takes to prepare the Product, meaning from the moment it is unopened to the moment it is ready for consumption,” the suit states.
The suit does not state how much time Ramirez actually spent getting her cups of Shells & Cheese ready to eat.
The suit also claims that the $10.99 price is higher than similar products that are represented in a “non-misleading way” and higher than it “would be sold for absent the misleading representations and omissions.”
Kraft Heinz Foods Company did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit.
Ramirez, the suit states, “is like many consumers who seek to stretch their money as far as possible when buying groceries. [She] looks to bold statements of value when quickly selecting groceries.”
The suit says she paid “more for the Product than she would have paid and would not have purchased it or paid less had she known the truth” about the ready time.
Ramirez intends to buy Velveeta microwavable Shells & Cheese again “when she can do so with the assurance its representations are consistent with its abilities, attributes, and/or composition,” the suit states.
Asserting that the class of victims is likely to number more than 100, the lawsuit seeks damages of more than $5 million, including statutory and punitive damages, plus interest and “costs.”
Lawsuits accusing well-known food companies of making misleading marketing statements are no strangers to South Florida.
In March, four plaintiffs were named in a proposed class-action suit claiming Miami-based Burger King portrayed sandwiches in their advertisements with meats significantly larger than what customers actually get.
Burger King countered that the plaintiffs’ claims are not those of “reasonable consumers” who know that food looks different in ads than in real life. The company contended its meats are as large as advertised. The lawsuit is ongoing.
In 2018, two South Florida McDonald’s patrons were named as lead plaintiffs in a suit claiming that dining room patrons were improperly charged when they ordered a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and asked the staff to hold the cheese.
Cheaper cheese-less Quarter Pounders were available for purchase for 30 cents to 90 cents less through McDonald’s mobile app but not when ordering in person, their lawsuit claimed.
A judge dismissed the suit, saying the plaintiffs failed to establish that they were entitled to relief for their “unwanted cheese vexation” based on any of three standards they claimed McDonald’s violated.
© 2022 South Florida Sun Sentinel
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.