The Florida attorney general has filed a lawsuit alleging Miami-based Icebox Cafe violated the state's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by advertising its food and beverage items as locally sourced and "farm-to-table" while the ingredients were purchased from traditional commercial vendors. Office of the Attorney Gen. v. Icebox Cafe LC, No. __ (Fla. Cir. Ct., Miami-Dade Cty., filed May 4, 2018). The state alleges that Icebox Cafe "represented that it purchased products from specific Florida farms and suppliers when such was not the case." According to the complaint, Icebox Cafe's invoices indicate that most of its ingredients were purchased from commercial distributors while its advertising stated that its food was made from products purchased from a local farm and a local seafood distributor. The cafe also allegedly represented that its menu items contained wild salmon and same-day-caught fish, but its invoices did not show purchases of those items. Claiming deceptive representation,…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging Trader Joe's Co. falsely advertises its Sour Gummies by failing to disclose that the product contains d-l-malic acid. Wong v. Trader Joe's Co., No. 18-0869 (S.D. Cal., removed to federal court May 4, 2018). The plaintiff asserts that under California law, "any artificial flavor must be identified on both the front-of-package label and the product ingredient list. Defendants fail to do either." According to the complaint, "Trader Joe's maintains a pervasive national marketing campaign guaranteeing that all its house-brand products are only naturally flavored," including the statement "when you see our name on a label, you can be assured that the product contains: YES quality ingredients NO artificial flavors." Alleging unfair competition, false advertising and negligent misrepresentation, the plaintiff seeks class certification, damages, corrective advertising and attorney's fees. In addition, Trader Joe's has filed a notice of opposition to an application for the…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging New England Coffee Company (NECC) mislabels its Hazelnut Crème Coffee by failing to include a front-label disclosure that the product contains natural and artificial flavors. Dumont v. Reily Foods Co., No. 18-10907 (D. Mass., filed May 7, 2018). "Rather, buried on the back side of the label in the far-left corner in tiny print was the only indication that the Product did not contain its characterizing ingredient [hazelnut]," the complaint asserts. The plaintiff argues that the front-label disclosure is a legal requirement and "a material term on which a reasonable consumer would rely." The complaint points to examples of competitors' hazelnut coffees that contain front-of-package disclosures as well as similar disclosures on other varieties of coffee sold by NECC. The complaint asserts that after the plaintiff sent a notification-and-demand letter to NECC in 2017, the company added the disclosure to 15 of the…

Binny's Beverage Depot faces a putative class action alleging the company violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) by collecting and sharing employee biometric information without informed consent. Burger v. Gold Standard Enters., Inc., No. 2018CH05904 (Ill. Ch. Ct., Cook Cty., filed May 7, 2018). The plaintiff alleges that Binny's established a fingerprint-based time-clock program and shared the collected data with third-party payroll processors and data-storage vendors without providing its employees "informed written consent, and without informing them through a publicly available written policy of how it was going to store and dispose of this irreplaceable information," and "failed to maintain lawful data retention practices which reduce the risk of theft or other misappropriation of its workers' biometrics by unauthorized third parties." The risk was compounded, the complaint asserts, because the biometric data was linked to Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates and "potentially other relevant financial information." Claiming violations of…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced the availability of "Menu Labeling: Supplemental Guidance for Industry," which includes an advisory of FDA's intent to exercise discretion regarding nutrient declarations for calories from fat. FDA has taken this position "because the current science supports a view that the type of fat is more relevant to the risk of chronic disease than the overall caloric fat intake." The guidance also addresses concerns about the implementation of nutrition labeling, includes "expanded and new examples of alternatives to aid in compliance" and details the criteria for considering natural variations in foods when determining nutritional labels.

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released the proposed National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, which would establish "a mandatory uniform national standard for disclosure of information to consumers." The proposal defines “bioengineered food” as food “that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques" "for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.” AMS seeks comments on "how to interpret the statutory definition of 'bioengineering,' and thus the scope of the regulatory definition of 'bioengineered food,'" according to the announcement. "In particular, AMS is interested in any additional studies conducted on this issue, the cost of implementation under each policy, and whether certain policies describing the scope of foods subject to the disclosure standard would lower costs to affected entities." Comments on the proposed rule must be received by July…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has extended the compliance date for its changes to food nutrition labels. The extension applies to rules on (i) providing updated nutrition labeling on food; (ii) defining a single-serving container; (iii) requiring dual-column labeling for certain containers; (iv) updating, modifying and establishing certain reference amounts customarily consumed; and (v) amending the label serving size for breath mints. The compliance date for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales is January 1, 2020, and the compliance date for manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales is January 1, 2021.

Eight advocacy groups have filed a joint petition for a writ of mandamus to compel the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to rule on a 2016 citizen petition seeking recission of approval for several artificial flavorings used in food that have been linked to cancer. Breast Cancer Prevention v. FDA, No. 18-71260 (9th Cir., filed May 2, 2018). The groups, including Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Environmental Working Group and Natural Resources Defense Council, allege that FDA failed to issue a decision by the deadline of August 8, 2016, and request an order mandating FDA to issue a decision within 30 days. The groups allege that after FDA approved the seven chemicals at issue—including benzophenone, ethyl acrylate and styrene—multiple U.S. and international agencies established that each of the chemicals induces cancer in humans or animals. Under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act,…

Ruling that the plaintiff’s claims are preempted by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), a federal court in California has dismissed a putative class action alleging Danone North America's Horizon Organic milk is not organic because it contains DHA. Brown v. Danone N. Am. LLC, No. 17-7325 (N.D. Cal., entered May 1, 2018). Noting that the Ninth Circuit has not considered whether the OFPA preempts state law challenges that "call into question whether organic products were properly certified as organic,” the court sided with decisions from the Eighth and Second Circuits holding that such challenges are preempted. “The labels clearly state that the milk is 'organic' and that the milk contains DHA, and the labels bear the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic certification logo," the court found. "The USDA database publicly shows that Horizon Organic milk with DHA is currently certified organic by the USDA, and has been…

An Arizona woman has sued Red Lobster Hospitality alleging that she contracted E. coli from eating a salad at a Red Lobster in Phoenix. Styles v. Red Lobster Hospitality, LLC, No. 18-1361 (D. Ariz., filed May 1, 2018). The plaintiff alleged she ate the salad, which contained romaine lettuce, on March 23, 2018, and became ill around March 29, 2018. After she was hospitalized, she tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 bacteria, which has been linked to an outbreak of E. coli from romaine lettuce grown near Yuma, Arizona. Claiming breach of warranty, strict liability and negligence, the plaintiff seeks damages and attorney’s fees. A similar lawsuit was filed against Panera Bread Co. in April 2018.

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