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Whole Foods Didn't Mislead Bread Buyers, Judge Rules

The bread may not have been fresh, but a judge says consumer arguments were half-baked.

Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Whole Foods can cross two legal issues off its list this week. Reuters reports that U.S. District Judge Joseph Irenas has dismissed two lawsuits against the popular grocer and asparagus water peddler, as well as Wegmans Food Markets, and Acme Markets over claims the stores mislead customers with their labeling of baked goods.

According to the court filings consumers said the stores presented reheated, pre-made baked goods as "Made In House" or "Baked Fresh in Our Oven." Par-baked bread has been partially baked, as the name suggests, and is then flash frozen. It is then shipped, frozen, either from a commissary or the wholesaler to the seller in plastic bins. At that point, it is defrosted and and put into a hot oven where it is crisped and then sold as freshly baked bread. The bread can be frozen for months before it's shipped to a seller, so calling it freshly baked is far from the truth.

Lawyers were seeking a class action status that would benefit hundreds of bread buyers, according to New Jersey Advanced Media. However, the judge dismissed the consumer allegations as too "general," noting that it would be difficult to identify individuals who purchased bread associated with certain signage. "Without details as to particular misrepresentations and subsequent purchases, the complaints do not inject the kind of particularity required for fraud claims," Irenas writes. Lawyer for the plaintiffs Aneliya Angelova still marked it as a win for consumers "because the defendants removed the misleading signs and advertisements."

Whole Foods isn't out of the woods yet though. Earlier this summer, an investigation revealed that New York's Whole Foods outposts were systematically overcharging customers. Not only did a Bronx resident file a lawsuit but the company has also been hit with federal charges that it violated securities law. Last year, the chain had to pay more than $800,000 to settle a similar lawsuit in California.