Just as actress Clara Peller famously asked “Where’s the beef?” in a series of memorable 1980s television commercials for fast food chain Wendy's, now a Schaumburg woman is demanding in a class action lawsuit to know where the pork is in Walmart’s store brand product labeled “Pork and Beans.”
In a complaint filed Oct. 8 in federal court in Chicago, plaintiff Tanya Thompson Mullins said she and anyone else who purchased Great Value Pork & Beans in Tomato Sauce in the last six years are entitled to damages, as the product lists pork as an ingredient. Yet according to Mullins’ complaint, “rigorous scientific testing has revealed that the product actually contains no pork whatsoever.”
The problem, the complaint states, goes back as far as Oct. 8, 2009. Mullins said from then through September 2015 she bought at least four cans of the pork and beans each month at the Walmart store in northwest suburban Elk Grove Village. As an active participant in the retailer’s Savings Catcher program, she typically uploaded her Wal-Mart receipts to a website, which makes the exact dates of her purchases easily known.
Mullins’ complaint, which said product testing included “microscopic and chemical analysis,” incorporated photographs of the can label. The front depicted the product name imposed over both a spoonful and bowlful of pork and beans, and the ingredient list on the back has the word “pork” marked in yellow.
The complaint says the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s regulations for more than 15 years have specified “any product described as ‘Pork and Beans in Tomato Sauce’ … shall contain a minimum of 12 percent ham, bacon or pork based on the weight of the smoked or fresh meat at the time of formulation.”
While not explicitly stating Walmart knew the cans contained no pork, nor giving any details in her complaint regarding how the product was tested and found to be devoid of pork, Mullins said as developer, manufacturer and exclusive seller and distributor, Walmart “has been aware since the product’s inception that the product contains no pork whatsoever.” The labels and store signs, therefore, were all knowingly false and the price of the product artificially inflated to reflect an ingredient it did not actually contain.
On behalf of the intended national class, Mullins has alleged breach of express warranty and unjust enrichment against the world’s largest retailer. She also has alleged violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, a breach of implied contract and violation of covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The complaint included the stipulation that, if the court does not certify the breach of express warranty claim on behalf of the national class that it do so for a subclass of Illinois residents.
In addition to class certification and a jury trial, Mullins seeks injunctive and declaratory relief, including a corrective advertising campaign, damages for each class member, with interest, as well as legal fees and treble damages.
Representing Mullins are attorneys Theodore Bell of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, of Chicago; Janine L. Pollack, of the same firm’s New York office; and Richard J. Lantinberg, of the Wilner Firm, Jacksonville, Fla.