100% Dubious


All language is an inexact effort to reference and communicate aspects of reality, and ultimately, even the most seemingly straightforward statement can be shown to have ambiguous possibilities.

That said, human society depends on language to function, and as this account of a judicial ruling makes clear, making unusual efforts to find ambiguities in seemingly straightforward language undermines our belief that we can rely on language and, were such contortions to become more commonplace, would quickly erode our faith in our most fundamental institutions:

A U.S. judge on Thursday dismissed lawsuits by consumers who had sued food manufacturers and retailers over their “100% grated Parmesan cheese” labels, alleging they were deceiving buyers because the products actually contained cellulose filling.

Starting in early 2016, companies such as The Kraft Heinz Co (KHC.O), Target Corporation (TGT.N), Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) and Supervalu Inc. were hit with some 50 lawsuits, which were consolidated in a multidistrict litigation in federal court in Chicago.

The lawsuits on behalf of consumers claimed the companies violated various state consumer protection statutes by labeling their products as being 100 percent cheese, when a list on the back of containers clearly showed other ingredients.

But U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman said the plaintiffs’ claims were doomed “by the readily accessible ingredient panels on the products that disclose the presence of non-cheese ingredients.” . . .

Feinerman also said the 100 percent claims might be interpreted as other than an assertion that the product contained nothing but cheese. It could also be taken to mean 100 percent of the cheese was Parmesan or that the Parmesan cheese was 100 percent grated, he noted.

These paragraphs are excerpted from an article writtin by Tina Bellon for Reuters. The full article can be accessed at: http://mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idUSKCN1B429G?ex_cid=SigDig.



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