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One customer put Cold Stone Creamery’s feet to the legal fire after discovering that its pistachio ice cream doesn’t contain the actual ingredient.

In May 2024, Jenna Marie Duncan received the green light from a New York judge to proceed with a class action lawsuit against the ice cream company. The lawsuit accuses the company of lying about its products, citing that certain flavors “do not contain their represented ingredients” at the time of purchase.

Duncan “reasonably believed that the pistachio ice cream she purchased from the defendant contained pistachio,” according to the suit. The incident occurred in Levittown, New York, in or around July 2022.

“When consumers purchase pistachio ice cream, they expect pistachio, not a concoction of processed ingredients,” read the suit. Duncan’s concerns grew when she later realized that the cold treat did not contain the drupe but a “pistachio flavoring,” after further research led her to the Cold Stone Creamery website to pinpoint what was being used in her product. Her discovery led her to find out that the flavoring contains “a mixture of water, ethanol, propylene glycol, natural and artificial flavor, Yellow 5, and Blue 1.”

The court documents also note that the company’s competitors, like Haagen-Dazs, actually do contain drupes, which are members of the cashew family. Drupes are fruits that are fleshy on the outside and contain a shell covering a seed on the inside. Pistachios, cashews, almonds, etc., are essentially seeds that are consumed.

Moreover, Duncan listed her issues with other Cold Stone Creamery flavors, including mango, coconut, orange, mint, butter pecan, and the company’s orange sorbet.

U.S. District Court Judge Gary R. Brown used ice cream song lyrics from tracks like “Banana Split for My Baby” by Louis Prima and Weird Al Yankovic’s “I Love Rocky Road” to support his decision that will allow this case to proceed in court. He asked whether a customer who orders pistachio ice cream should expect actual pistachios in the frozen dairy product.

“And if the answer is no, should that leave them with a bitter aftertaste,” he wrote. Brown also noted how the case “raises a deceptively complex question about the reasonable expectations of plaintiff and like-minded ice cream aficionados.”

At this time, lawyers representing Kahala Franchising LLC, the parent franchiser of roughly 1,000 Cold Stone stores nationwide, declined to comment on the case when contacted by The Associated Press.

What we do know is that Kahala did motion for the case to be dismissed, citing that “a detailed list of the ice cream ingredients are published online.” Furthermore, a regional director for the company said that no flavor placard at the Levittown location would suggest that its ice creams are “made with any particular ingredient.”

This is not the first time a business within the food industry has had legal action brought forth against it for alleged deception in the advertisement of its products. Over the years, several lawsuits have been filed against fast food restaurants for not providing “big, juicy burgers” or a soda that doesn’t live up to its promised health benefits, as they’ve advertised.

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