Dreaming of a Vanilla Sky

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A lawyer in New York is tired of products that are falsely labeled “vanilla” when they are actually made with a chemical synthetic. He has filed almost 100 lawsuits against companies that do that.

Something made with vanilla beans is not the same as something made with factory-made vanillin. Spencer Sheehan is a purist and he wants companies to stop the deception. His latest suit is against Wegman’s vanilla cake mix.

“It is misleading to describe a vanilla-flavored food as ‘naturally flavored’ where it contains vanillin from non-vanilla sources because consumers will understand this to mean it is flavored with natural vanilla, from the vanilla bean,” claims the suit.

Vanillin is cheaper to make than actual vanilla beans are to grow. If you’ve ever bought a vanilla bean, you know it is expensive, mostly because it is not grown in the U.S. Sheehan is asking about $5 million per suit filed in several states for a total of $500 million.

“I will likely not be winning $500 million. And that’s not the point,” he said.

Next he can take on “pumpkin” foods that contain no actual pumpkin.


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