Herbal Hoax: Ricola Accused Of Falsely Marketing Cough Drop Ingredients

ricola cough drops misleading advertising

A New Proposed Class Action Lawsuit Accuses Ricola Of Falsely Claiming Its Herbs Are From Switzerland

Ricola is keeping a sweet secret about its cough drops, according to a new lawsuit that alleges the company misled customers about the origins of the drops' herbal flavors. 

While the packaging tells of herbs from the Swiss Alps, with pictures of peppermint, elder, wild thyme, horehound, hyssop, mallow, thyme, lemon balm, linden flower, and sage blowing in the mountain wind, the reality is that the herbs come from far less snowy location: the fields of India.

Mountain marketing, mainstream origins: Lawsuit claims misleading labels

Philip Cowit and Matthew Rhoades filed the proposed class action lawsuit against Ricola USA Inc. accusing the company of violating federal, Ohio, and Connecticut state laws. 

The pair both bought Ricola Original Herb Cough Drops in 2021 and 2022 to use as a cough suppressant and oral anesthetic, according to the lawsuit. They believed the medicinal qualities were tied to the herbs grown in the Swiss Alps, as the packaging suggests, and bought them because of that, the lawsuit states. 

“Plaintiffs paid more for the Product than they would have had they known its main and effective ingredients…would not be the ‘Swiss Alpine Herbs,’ grown in Switzerland, depicted on the front label, but compounds derived from herbal ingredients, grown in India, as they would not have bought it or would have paid less.”

Premium perception, potential price deception

It’s crucial for companies to maintain transparency and honesty in their advertising to build trust with consumers and ensure ethical business practices. As the lawsuit says, authenticity is increasingly important for consumers in the context of herbal and botanical ingredients. Factors including soil, temperature, farming, labor, elevation, and local knowledge, assure consumers of the quality of what they are buying.

The lawsuit states that Switzerland is at the forefront of this herbal and botanical trend, because its specialization in herbal ingredients dates to the Middle Ages, and consumers perceive the ingredients as high quality. Therefore finding out the herbs aren’t actually from there, is a huge disappointment to many who have purchased them for that very reason.

Beyond Ricola: A look at false advertising in the food industry

The herbal industry is far from alone in having companies say ingredients are from a place they’re not in order to increase marketing appeal, perceived quality, gain competitive advantage, or get through regulatory loopholes. Misleading marketing has led to a range of local and federal laws that protect consumers from companies looking to make a buck of unfounded claims, and allowed them to take legal action.

Powerade, a popular sports drink from Coca-Cola, is facing a class action lawsuit alleging deceptive marketing practices tied to the amount of electrolytes in Powerade compared to competitors. Meanwhile, consumers argue in another class action lawsuit that the Hershey Company deceived them by using a sugar alcohol to sweeten Lily’s chocolate products, rather than the advertised Stevia. 

Kraft’s is also facing allegations of leading consumers astray with its Original Flavor, Thick ‘n Creamy and Three Cheese varieties of mac & cheese, which say “No Artificial Flavors, Preservatives, or Dyes” on the box, when proposed class action lawsuit argues they all contain the synthetic preservative citric acid. 

If you’ve bought Ricola cough drops thinking they were superior given the marketed ingredients, follow Cowit and Rhoades lawsuit to see if you could be in for compensation. 

The plaintiffs and proposed class are represented by Joshua D. Levin-Epstein of Levin-Epstein & Associates P.C. 

The Ricola herb hoax proposed class action lawsuit is Cowit et al. v Ricola USA Inc., Case No 3:24-cv-00734-AWT in the United States District Court District Of Connecticut New Haven Division. 



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