Counties sue Harry & David over false packaging

Three California counties have accused Harry & David of using packaging that misleads consumers.

District attorneys from Yolo, Fresno and Sacramento counties filed a complaint Friday in Fresno County claiming Harry & David's packaging suggests there's more product inside than there really is. The practice violates California's "slack-fill" law, which limits the amount of unnecessary empty space used in product packaging.

The law is part of the California Business and Professions Code and is monitored by the counties' Weights and Measures departments, which brought the packaging issues to light.

The complaint also accuses Harry & David of mislabeling one product. The company's Dark Chocolate Raspberries shows a picture of raspberries on the package, but the only fruit listed in the ingredients is "infused dried apple." The discrepancy was noted in 2009 by Consumer Reports, which commented, " 'Infused dried apple' must not sound as tasty."

A picture of the mislabeled product is included with the complaint, which asks for civil restitution from the company and a change to the packaging.

The complaint comes amid the company's bankruptcy filing Monday, but Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Ruth Young says the lawsuit will continue.

"I realize the bankruptcy issues will come into play, but we will still move forward," said Young, a prosecutor for the case.

The prosecutors suggest a civil penalty of no less than $250,000 for each of the two areas of the complaint and request that the company correct any misleading packaging.

Though the Weights and Measures departments of each county provided the original information about the packaging issues, Young wouldn't rule out the possibility that individual customers may also have complained.

Harry & David's public relations firm did not return calls Tuesday or Wednesday for a comment.

Young and the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office paired with Shasta and Los Angeles counties to file a similar lawsuit in 2008 against a company that makes the drug Mucinex. That lawsuit also cited "slack-fill" laws. The company paid nearly $300,000 in civil penalties and reimbursement for lawsuit costs, a third of which went to Sacramento County.

Reach Southern Oregon University intern Teresa Ristow at

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