Barilla, the company last in trouble for suggesting gay people “eat pasta from another manufacturer,” now faces a claim that it’s screwing customers out of as much as a quarter of their noodles. Four sufficiently Italian-sounding plaintiffs (Alessandro Berni, Domenico Salvata, Mossimo Simioli, and Giuseppe Santochirico) have filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that Barilla deceptively packages certain pastas in order to fool consumers. They claim extra-protein, whole-grain, and gluten-free pastas are placed in the standard-size boxes used for plain old penne or farfalle — only these specialty boxes are “substantially under-filled.” According to their math, a box of Protein Plus contains 9.4 percent less pasta, the whole-grain variety is underfilled by 17.4 percent, and gluten-free shorts buyers a full 25 percent.
“Slack-fill,” as this empty space is known, frequently spawns angry consumer lawsuits — who likes opening a bag of chips and finding that it’s two-thirds air? — but the plaintiffs argue Barilla is also “rel[ying] on consumers’ familiarity with the box size and appearance, known due to decades of marketing, to mislead consumers into thinking they are purchasing the same quantity of pasta.”
Technically, the boxes have a throwaway line about a “new reduced net weight,” the suit notes, but customers would have to study the box pretty hard to notice it. They’re otherwise uninformed that any change has been made to the box’s quantity. Ironically, the pasta-maker also recently got busted for funding a health study that “found” people didn’t get fat eating pasta, which maybe would have been true if the participants were using boxes of Barilla.