Where’s the wasabi? 7-Eleven is sued over snack mix

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FILE PHOTO: A man uses a mobile phone outside a 7-Eleven convenience store in Tokyo

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK – 7-Eleven, the convenience chain known for Slurpees and Big Gulp beverages, has been sued by a U.S. consumer who claims its private-label Wasabi Delight Flavored Snack Mix contains no wasabi.

The lawsuit, filed on Sunday night in Manhattan federal court by Oscar Ithier, joins hundreds of proposed $5 million-or-larger class actions accusing food companies of overcharging consumers through false and misleading packaging.

Ithier said the label for 7-Eleven’s snack mix is deceptive because neither the wasabi powder in the “crunchy wasabi peanuts” nor the artificial wasabi flavor in the “wasabi green peas” on the ingredients list contains wasabi.

The West Harrison, New York resident also said real wasabi, a greenish Japanese condiment that is similar to horseradish and has antioxidant properties, tastes “bright and pungent” with a fast-fading heat, while “fake” wasabi burns hotter and longer.

“Defendant gained an advantage against other companies, and against consumers seeking to purchase a product that contained some wasabi,” the complaint said.

7-Eleven did not immediately respond on Monday to requests for comment. The chain has more than 77,000 stores worldwide, including nearly 16,000 in North America. Its parent is Seven & I Holdings Co.

The lawsuit seeks damages for snack mix purchasers in New York and eight other U.S. states, who typically paid $2.59 or more for a 4.5-ounce (128-gram) bag, whose packaging includes a pair of chopsticks holding a wasabi pea.

Ithier is represented by Spencer Sheehan, a Great Neck, New York, lawyer known for filing dozens of lawsuits claiming that “vanilla” products contain little or no vanilla bean.

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More recently, he has filed lawsuits alleging that Kellogg Co’s Strawberry Pop-Tarts contain too few strawberries.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)