Posts By Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P.

A consumer has alleged that Nuts 'N More LLC's White Chocolate Peanut Spread does not contain the amount of milkfat required to meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) definition of "white chocolate." Morrison v. Nuts 'N More LLC, No. 18-11192 (S.D.N.Y., filed November 30, 2018). According to the complaint, FDA requires white chocolate to contain "not less than 3.5 percent by weight of milkfat," but the white chocolate spread does not contain any dairy ingredients. "Because there is no additional milkfat to supplement the Product to meet FDA definition of white chocolate, the Product cannot be marketed as white chocolate and thus must be deemed imitation white chocolate," the plaintiff asserts. She alleges that she and other consumers paid a premium for what she believed to be white chocolate "and received an inferior Product than what was represented to them by Defendant." For alleged violations of New York…

A consumer has filed a putative class action challenging La Lechonera Products Inc.'s "all natural" and "no preservatives" representations on its marinade packaging, alleging that the presence of citric acid and canola oil in the product preclude the company from making those marketing claims. Williams v. La Lechonera Prods. Inc., No. 2018-39361-CA-01 (Fla Cir. Ct., 11th Jud. Dist., filed November 26, 2018). The complaint asserts that canola oil and citric acid are substantially processed and synthetic ingredients. The plaintiff alleges that La Lechonera injured him and other consumers in 14 ways, including that the consumers "paid a sum of money for Products that were not as represented," "ingested a substance that Plaintiff and other members of the Class did not expect or consent to," "were denied the benefit of truthful food labels," and "were forced unwittingly to support an industry that contributes to environmental, ecological, and/or health damage." The plaintiff…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reallocated responsibilities between its agencies, resulting in the elimination of the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). The Agricultural Marketing Service will absorb GIPSA's previous responsibilities as well as some program areas formerly overseen by the Farm Service Agency. The rule took effect November 29, 2018, finalizing changes initially announced in September 2017.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has issued a scientific opinion on "the occurrence and control of three parasites that may be transmitted via food, namely Cryptosporidium spp., Toxoplasma gondii, and Echinococcus spp.," which cause the diseases "cryptosporidiosis, toxoplasmosis, and alveolar echinococcosis (AE) and cystic echinococcosis (CE), respectively." EFSA identified "many gaps in our knowledge of food‐borne transmission of the three parasites" but suggested that "consumer preferences for raw, fresh produce may contribute to increasing the likelihood of infection." EFSA further noted that commercial washing of fresh produce, "particularly with the reuse of washwater, may spread localised contamination throughout a batch," resulting in contamination of ready-to-eat produce. EFSA also researched the prevalence of contamination in meat, finding that "consumer preferences for animals raised with access to outdoor conditions, for not freezing meat prior to consumption, and for eating meat raw or rare may increase the likelihood of exposure to infective…

Vox Media's podcast The Impact has examined New York City's and Chicago's approaches to combating obesity, including Chicago's imposition of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). A reporter first speaks to employees of an initiative in New York that encourages corner-store owners to stock more healthy foods, and she finds that the results have been middling. The podcast then turns to Chicago's tax on SSBs, which was enforced for two months before it was repealed. "The Cook County soda tax became so toxic that nobody wants to talk about it anymore," the reporter reveals. "This was by far the hardest episode of our season to report because people kept turning down my interview requests. I asked six different county commissioners to talk to me for this story. Five of them said no." "Right now, there isn't great evidence that healthy corner store initiatives have a big impact on obesity. There's…

The Associated Press has detailed the efforts of Recombinetics, a company that develops genetically engineered (GE) animals, to seek regulatory and public approval of its work. The company CEO reportedly told the news outlet that it aims to assuage fears about GE animals by focusing on how they can help ease animal pain, such as breeding cows without horns so that farmers can stop removing the horns to keep the cows from harming each other. This approach has apparently led to some support among animal-welfare groups; the Humane Society of the United States supports GE pigs bred to no longer require castration, AP reports, although the organization does not give "blanket approval" for the technology. "If you edit for your chicken to be the size of an elephant, that's not good," the organization's vice president of farm animal protection reportedly said.

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has filed a lawsuit alleging that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has failed to act on the organization's 2014 petition seeking certification for labeling claims about animal welfare and environmental stewardship during the meat and poultry production process. Animal Welfare Inst. v. USDA, No. 18-2621 (D.D.C., filed November 14, 2018). AWI's petition asserted that meat and poultry producers market food products as "humanely raised," made with "sustainable agricultural products," "raised in a stress free environment" and other similar claims despite allegedly exposing animals to "intensive confinement, barren and stressful housing conditions, and painful mutilations in order to increase production." AWI argues for the establishment of a certification program to verify marketing claims about animal welfare. According the complaint, USDA has not yet taken action on AWI's petition, allegedly resulting in an "unreasonable delay" in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.

A woman has filed a putative class action alleging that FGF Brands (USA) Inc. misleads consumers by falsely marketing Stonefire Naan as baked in a tandoor oven. Friend v. FGF Brands (USA) Inc., No. 18-7644 (N.D. Ill., E. Div., filed November 16, 2018). Naan requires a "labor-intensive cooking process," the complaint asserts, and the plaintiff "believed that the Mislabeled Naan was baked in a tandoor oven, in small batches by hand, and did not involve the conventional, automated, and commercial methods of baking bread." The complaint cites FGF's patents, which purportedly show that the naan "is mass produced on a conveyor belt in a gas-heated commercial oven designed by Defendants to overcome the impracticalities of using a tandoor oven to mass-produce products." The plaintiff alleges violations of Illinois consumer-protection law along with fraudulent concealment and unjust enrichment, and she seeks class certification, corrective advertising, restitution, attorney's fees and damages.

Plaintiffs represented by the same plaintiff's firm have filed lawsuits alleging that companies mislead consumers by labeling their foods as flavored naturally despite containing malic acid. Lepiane v. Utz Quality Foods LLC, No. 18-2659 (S.D. Cal., filed November 20, 2018); Augustine v. Talking Rain Beverage Co., No. 18-2576 (S.D. Cal., filed November 9, 2018). The plaintiffs who filed against Utz Quality Foods allege that the company's Dirty Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips are labeled as containing "no artificial flavors" but list malic acid as an ingredient. "This type of 'malic acid' is not naturally-occurring but is in fact manufactured in petrochemical plants from benzene or butane—components of gasoline and lighter fluid, respectively—through a series of chemical reactions, some of which involve highly toxic chemical precursors and byproducts," the complaint argues. The complaint against Talking Rain Beverage Co. makes identical allegations. Both complaints allege violations of California consumer-protection statutes and seek…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that Reed's Inc. misleads consumers by labeling its Virgil's Sodas as made with "natural ingredients" and "no preservatives" despite containing citric acid. Mason v. Reed's Inc., No. 18-10826 (S.D.N.Y., filed November 19, 2018). The complaint asserts that citric acid "is a synthetic compound" "usually produced from certain strains of the mold Aspergillus niger" and "the application of chemical solvents such as sulfuric acid." The plaintiff alleges that the company's "misrepresentations deceive consumers into thinking they are receiving healthier and 'natural' soda, when they are not." "Consumers cannot discover the true nature of the Products from reading the label," the plaintiff argues. "Discovery of the true nature of the content of the Products requires knowledge of chemistry that is not available to the average reasonable consumer." She seeks class certification, an injunction requiring "proper, complete, and accurate labeling of the products," damages…

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