Consumer Fraud Claims Against Manufacturers of Foods with Fiber Dismissed as Preempted
A federal court in Illinois has dismissed claims that companies failing to disclose that the fiber in their snack-bar and yogurt products is “non-natural” chicory root-based inulin, which allegedly lacks the same health benefits as “natural” fiber, have violated state consumer fraud laws. Turek v. General Mills, Inc., No. 09-7038 (N.D. Ill., decided September 1, 2010). According to the court, the plaintiff’s claims are expressly preempted by the federal Nutritional Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) because they would impose requirements under state law that are not identical to federal law requirements. The products at issue are labeled with statements about the percent of daily fiber they contain or grams of fiber provided per serving.
Discussing the application of preemption provisions in various federal laws, the court also sets out all of the federal regulations pertaining to fiber in foods. The court concludes, “plaintiff wants to change the labeling on defendants’ products because she questions the nutritional science behind current disclosure requirements and not because of any fraudulent statements made for the purposes of commercial marketing . . . Clearly, new requirements that direct manufacturers to label certain fiber nutrients as ‘non-natural’ and to disclose alleged lack of health benefits are non-identical to and materially different from the current NLEA requirements that do allow inulin to be labeled simply as ‘fiber’ and do not require manufacturers to disclose any lack of health benefits.” Thus, the court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.