When Is Butter Not Butter?

Courts ponder whether non-butter product is butter or, maybe, a spray.

When Is Butter Not Butter?
Photo by Sorin Gheorghita / Unsplash

So, is I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! Spray really not butter. It's not, according to a divided decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that the substance in question is, in fact, a spray. Not butter, in other words.

It might sound like the court would have other things to occupy it but the justice system has to respond to matters at hand. In this case, it was a group of consumers – a class action, in other words – who alleged that Unilever was misleading purchasers.

The spray is, of course, a derivative of the well-known vegetable oil I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, which comes in squirt bottles, not bars like, you know, butter.

The consumers claimed that Unilever was being misleading by saying that the product contains zero grams of fat and zero calories per serving. The entire bottle contains 1,160 calories and 124 grams of fat, and the suit claims that the serving size used in the packaging is deceptively small.

It takes 40 sprays to equal one tablespoon of butter, the suit argues. But the judge hearing the case rejected the claim, saying it didn't address the issue of what the buttery substance really is.

40 sprays of non-butter?

β€œIn alleging that consumers use more than one spray of Not Butter! spray, plaintiffs do not raise a question of fact regarding product classification. They instead challenge the reference amount customarily consumed β€” a value established by the FDA, U.S. Circuit Judge Daniel Bress wrote in the opinion.

If consumers have an argument with the serving size, they should take it to the FDA, the judge noted.

The majority of the appeals court agreed and found it ludicrous to think consumers would spray the Unilever product 40 times to lubricate a pan or substitute for butter.