Once upon a time, there was a health-conscious thirty-something named Sarah. Sarah read that catechins and flavonoids are Very Good For You. (You can find these – let’s call them Catchies and Flavos – in green tea.) Sarah wanted to make sure she consumed lots of catechins and flavonoids. Instead of brewing and drinking lots of green tea, Sarah bought her catechins and flavonoids in a bottled product labeled Honest Tea. Sarah knew exactly how many Catchies and Flavos she was getting because the label told her: 247 mg. It also tasted yummy.
Sarah said to herself, “They have to be telling the truth because the company name is Honest Tea.” Sarah felt very clever, and very safe, and very much too busy to make herself a delicious cup of fresh, green tea. Sarah didn’t mind spending two dollars for twelve ounces of Honest Green Tea because she knew she was getting all those Catchies and Flavos.
One day Sarah heard a very upsetting rumor about her beloved Catchies and Flavos. Sarah learned that she was getting just 76% (a C+) of what the label promised. “Egad!” Sarah exclaimed, “I might be missing a few Catchies, and be short a couple Flavos! What ever will I do?” Sarah did not make herself a delicious cup of green tea. (I suggest you do so right now; it will give you the strength you need to read the rest of this not-fable.)
Sarah lived in the United States of America, where silly lawsuits are so prevalent that the terms “silly” and “lawsuit” have been deemed a redundancy. So, instead of drinking a cup of tea, Sarah filed a class action lawsuit. (This doesn’t mean “classy,” like drinking a cup of inexpensive and delicious tea a few times a day. No, ma’am: A class-action lawsuit is like when the whiniest kid at recess gets a hangnail on the jungle gym and “they” remove the jungle gym.)
Even though Honest Tea revised the information contained on the label, Sarah went ahead with her lawsuit, saying if she had known that the product contained fewer antioxidants than what is listed on the label, she would not have purchased it and would have alternatively purchased tea leaves or a tea bag of green tea and paid much less. As a result, she suffered injury and has lost money, so she can sue Honest Tea.
The facetious little fable above (moral: drink lots of green tea), comes from a recent article in World Tea News. As part of my research regarding America’s predilection toward litigation, I came across this interesting article from 1977. Almost forty years ago sociologists noted that Americans were more inclined to call a lawyer than to call their neighbors. The old-fashioned chat about the problem dog or the loud music or the messy mulberry tree has all but disappeared, and taking its place is a legal Summons. What ever happened to “Join me for a cup of tea, neighbor?”
Although I am not a fan of bottled teas – homemade is a tenth of the cost and ten times the quality, I’ve enjoyed Honest Tea and I am appalled that any judge would allow this class action suit to proceed. Every cup of brewed tea has a different level of catechins and flavonoids, dependent upon too many variables to list here. Therein lies the mutual responsibility in this situation: Honest Tea should not have listed a “guaranteed” or minimum level of antioxidants on the label. Sarah Salazar should have been making her own tea. Honest Tea is not culpable for her sloth; and therefore not at fault for the absent nutrients.