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Chicago woman's lawsuit: Fireball Cinnamon mini bottles are "misleading" due to lack of whiskey

Class-action lawsuit against maker of Fireball will cover anyone in Illinois
Class-action lawsuit against maker of Fireball will cover anyone in Illinois 00:30

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A class-action lawsuit against the maker of Fireball will cover anyone in Illinois.

The lawsuit says the plaintiff, Anna Marquez, is a Chicago resident and bought a mini-bottle of Fireball Cinnamon at a Jewel-Osco store at 8730 W. Dempster St. in Niles.

The mini-bottles, unlike the larger ones, do not contain any whiskey. In fact, the drink is a malt beverage flavored to taste like whiskey, much to the dismay of Marquez — who is suing Sazerac Company, the maker of Fireball, for "misleading" packaging.

The class-action lawsuit, which was filed by Marquez earlier this month, alleges that the labeling on the small 99-cent bottles of Fireball Cinnamon look misleadingly similar to the labeling on bottles of its other product, Fireball Cinnamon Whisky.

Fireball Cinnamon Whisky has 33% alcohol by volume, while Fireball Cinnamon has 16.5% alcohol by volume, according to the company's website.

Customers "expecting those small bottles labeled 'Fireball Cinnamon' to contain whiskey 'was an easy mistake to make, and one intended by the manufacturer,'" the suit reads. "In fact, what consumers were purchasing at non-liquor stores '[was] not whiskey at all' even though the[ir] labels are almost identical."

The lawsuit alleges that while it is legal for the company to use the brand name of "Fireball" for both drinks, federal and state legislation prohibits creating an overall "misleading impression."

In addition to similar labels, the lawsuit complains about the text size on Fireball Cinnamon's label describing its composition. The claim alleges that the phrasing, "Malt Beverage With Natural Whisky & Other Flavors and Carmel Color" is written in the "smallest allowed size." 

The use of the phrase "natural whisky" creates misunderstandings about the product, the lawsuit also states. 

"Using the words 'With Natural Whisky & Other Flavors' is a clever turn of phrase because consumers who strain to read this will see how 'Natural Whisky' is distinct from 'Other Flavors,'" the lawsuit reads.

Customers "will think the Product is a malt beverage with added (1) natural whisky and (2) other flavors," it added. 

In other words, buyers may believe that natural whisky is added to the drink as a separate ingredient, rather than understanding that only "whisky flavors" are added.

On the Fireball website, the company spells out the difference between its whisky and malt products.

"There are 2 key differences between the Fireball Cinnamon labels vs the Fireball Whisky label: Any package with Fireball 'Cinnamon Whisky' on the front label is our whisky-based product," the site explains. "Any product with Fireball 'Cinnamon' on the front label, without 'Whisky', is either our malt-based or wine-based product."

The lawsuit, though filed solely by Marquez, seeks to cover anyone in Illinois, North Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Mississippi, Iowa, South Carolina, Kansas, Arkansas, and Utah who has purchased Fireball Cinnamon.

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