Lawsuit Claims Velveeta’s Microwavable Macaroni and Cheese Takes Much Longer to Make than Promised

published Nov 29, 2022
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macaroni and cheese being picked up by a spoon
Credit: Photo: Eric Kleinberg; Food Stylist: Kristina Vanni
Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese

A Florida woman is taking Kraft Heinz to task for what attorneys call the “false and misleading representation” of their microwave Velveeta Shells & Cheese. But not because of anything that’s inside the single-serve containers — it’s due to what’s on the outside.

A class-action lawsuit filed on November 18 in a U.S. District Court in Miami is asking the company to pay at least $5 million in punitive damages for claiming that their Velveeta-branded microwavable mac & cheese cups are “ready to eat in 3 1/2 minutes.” Lead plaintiff, Amanda Ramirez, says that is simply not the case, as that time frame only factors cooking time and doesn’t take into account the other steps required to prep the product before cooking.

“The label does not state the Product takes ‘3 1/2 minutes to cook in the microwave,’ which would have been true,” argues the lawsuit. “To provide consumers with a Product that is actually ‘ready in 3 1/2 minutes,’ the Product would need to be cooked in the microwave for less than 3-and-a-half minutes, so that all the preparation steps could be completed in the 3-and-a-half minutes time frame.”

Ramirez states that, had she known the 3 1/2 minutes didn’t include the additional steps of removing the lid and cheese sauce pouch, adding water, and stirring in the cheese sauce, she would have chosen a different product.

Kraft Heinz called the lawsuit “frivolous” in a statement to USA Today and asserted that they “will strongly defend against the allegations in the complaint.” But Ramirez and any co-plaintiffs have the support of an attorney who has filed over 400 similar lawsuits, including a complaint against Kellogg’s for mislabeling their strawberry-flavored Pop-Tarts (which contain as much pear and apple in the filling as they do strawberry).

The attorney, Spencer Sheehan of Great Neck, New York-based law firm Sheehan & Associates, says that, while these complaints may seem like “small things” to some, they are just as important as any other action someone might present to a court.

“[F]rankly, these types of cases are the only mechanism by which an individual person or consumers in general are able to say to a company, ‘Hey, this isn’t right. You need to fix this. You need to disclose that this product is flavored or this product doesn’t really have butter or that the vanilla is not real vanilla,'” he told the CBC about a similar case. “Those may seem like small things. I’ll admit we’re not curing cancer. But it is equally important to any other cause of action that a court may address.”

To Sheehan’s point, if decided in favor of the plaintiffs, a case like this could have widespread impact. After all, that is how we ended up with a “hot content” warning on coffee cups.