As someone who generally favors labeling for genetically modified foods as a means of educating consumers on who and what actually controls the food chain, I'm sure that won't matter much if people don't bother to read what's printed on the label.
Once again we have a case where someone is shocked -- shocked! -- to find that something is what it seemed. In the latest case, a man was dismayed to learn Beck's beer is not actually made in Germany. He's so outraged that he's suing Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD) even though it says right there on the bottle's label that Beck's comes from "St. Louis, MO" and is a "Product of the USA."
In recent years Coca-Cola had to defend itself in court because a consumer was duped into believing its Vitaminwater brand actually contained only vitamins and water despite the drink's label listing every ingredient as required. No matter, in refusing Coke's motion to dismiss the lawsuit, the judge said, "The fact that the actual sugar content of Vitaminwater was accurately stated in a Food and Drug Administration-mandated label on the product does not eliminate the possibility that reasonable consumers may be misled."
What's next? Boston Beer getting sued because it has a picture of patriot-brewer Samuel Adams on the label of its flagship brand? After all, Dr Pepper Snapple Group was sued because a consumer allegedly believed the antioxidants in its 7Up berry-flavored drinks were derived from fruit juice instead of the vitamin E the bottler added because the label showed pictures of fruit.
The rise of frivolous lawsuits has led to the placement of ridiculous labels that either tell the consumer the obvious -- an electric razor, for example, that warns the user to "never use while sleeping" -- to the absurd -- a kid's neck pillow that cautions one should "keep away from infants and children." More recently, an extension cord manufacturer advised users to "wash hands after using," presumably if returning to the kitchen to cook after plugging that floor lamp into the wall socket.
A beer's ingredients can certainly be its pride. Molson Coors proudly proclaims its source water is the Colorado Rockies while Boston Beer makes much of its use of our noble hops Hallertauer Mittelfruh, Tettnanger, Spalter, and Saaz. Even with Beck's, although Anheuser-Busch might not use Rotenburger Rinne water from Germany anymore, as the classic Beck's beer did, it still maintains strict adherence to the German Purity Law, the Reinheitsgebot, in its manufacture. That alone separates it from many American brews, though Samuel Adams used to tout it was the only American brewer that could be legally imported into Germany.
While it seems implausible that the case will pass muster in the courts, as we've seen on other occasions judges can still brew up trouble from time to time. So don't be as shocked as that drinker who found out Beck's was made in the U.S. if this case doesn't just get poured down the drain.
Fool contributor Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Boston Beer, Coca-Cola, and Molson Coors Brewing. The Motley Fool owns shares of Boston Beer and Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.