A federal court in Ohio has dismissed the putative class action claims filed by a woman who alleged that Kroger Co. deceived the public by selling its beef as aged, when it was actually selling beef packaged and shipped almost immediately after slaughter. St. Clair v. Kroger Co., No. 7-03798 (N.D. Ohio, decided October 14, 2008). The case was originally filed in state court and removed on defendant’s motion under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA). Because the plaintiff failed to allege that Kroger had prior notice that its conduct was “deceptive or unconscionable,” the court was compelled under Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA) to dismiss the class claims. Prior notice, under the law, must be “in the form of a rule adopted by the state Attorney General or a judicial decision made publicly available,” neither of which was referred to in the complaint So ruling, the…

A federal court in New Jersey has reportedly approved a $24 million settlement that resolves claims for contaminated pet food filed in 80 putative class actions against more than 60 companies. In re Pet Food Prods. Liab. Litig., MDL No. 1850 (D.N.J., settlement approved October 14, 2008). The claims, which had been consolidated for pretrial proceedings before a multidistrict litigation (MDL) court, arose out of the deaths and illnesses of cats and dogs that consumed pet food with wheat gluten which had been adulterated with melamine in China to boost its protein content. The contamination led to a massive recall in March 2007. Apparently, more than 10,000 pet owners have filed claims; they will reportedly have until November 24, 2008, under the settlement’s terms to obtain up to $900 per animal, even without receipts for pet food or the costs of their pets’ illness and death. No sums will be paid…

A California jury has reportedly awarded an organic farm in Santa Cruz $1 million for the contamination of its edible herbs by pesticides applied on neighboring farms. Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo v. W. Farm Serv., Inc., No. ___ (Cal. Dist. Ct., Santa Cruz Cty., September 29, 2008). Pesticide drift from aerial spraying allegedly made it impossible for the plaintiff to sell large portions of its sage, rosemary and dill harvests in 2006 and 2007. The defendant, a pesticide application company, has reportedly indicated that it intends to appeal the verdict; a spokesperson was quoted as saying that the verdict “raises concerns about future use of organophosphates in California.” The company apparently claims that it followed all product labeling standards and county agricultural permits when it applied the pesticides and that decisions about the uses and risks of pesticides should rest in the hands of government regulators and not juries. The company also…

The U.S. Supreme Court has reportedly asked the solicitor general to file a brief discussing the federal preemption issues in case filed against retailers for failing to inform California consumers that the farm-raised salmon they sold was artificially colored. Albertson’s, Inc. v. Kanter, No. 07-1327 (U.S.). FDA regulations allow salmon farmers to augment the normally grayish pigment of farm-raised fish with chemicals that turn the flesh pink like that of wild salmon. Federal law also requires that the use of coloring be indicated on product labels, but does not allow individuals to enforce the law through litigation. The plaintiffs filed several lawsuits in state court alleging that the grocery stores violated federal and state food and drug labeling laws by failing to provide this information to consumers. A trial court and intermediate appellate court found that federal law preempted the claims, but the California Supreme Court ruled in plaintiffs’ favor. Further…

Japanese health officials have reportedly warned consumers that particular lots of frozen green beans imported from China are tainted with the organophosphate insecticide dichlorvos, resulting in the illness of at least three people. Residents of Kashiwa in the Chiba Prefecture experienced mouth numbness, vomiting and other symptoms after eating adulterated beans manufactured by Shandong-based Yantai Beihai Foodstuff Co. and sold in Japan under the Ingen brand. Japanese regulators stated that the beans contained 6,900 parts per million of the pesticide, or approximately 34,000 times the legal limit. At this level, a 132- pound person would feel acute symptoms if she consumed just 0.07 gram of the product, according to officials. Quarantine authorities have since halted all food imports originating with the company, urging retailers to pull 265 tons of the frozen beans from shelves pending an investigation. The ministry also noted that it was willing to work with Beijing to resolve…

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) recently convened a board meeting to discuss reducing the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) testing requirement for cattle. The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) “recognized an increase in the age at which cattle intended for human consumption are BSE tested would represent a ‘minimal to negligible increase in the risk to human health,’” according to an October 15, 2008, press release. FSA has consequently agreed to “support a move to increase the age at which UK cattle are BSE tested from 30 months to 48 months, subject to a review of current and continued BSE surveillance.” FSA Chief Scientist Andrew Wadge also emphasized that other BSE controls offer sufficient consumer protection. “Prevention of exposure to BSE rests primarily with SRM [specified risk material] controls and not BSE testing,” he was quoted as saying. See FSA Press Release, October 15, 2008.

The WTO has reportedly issued a ruling supporting the United States in its decision to impose duties on European imports in response to a ban on beef from animals treated with growth hormones. According to the U.S. trade representative, “The Appellate Body’s report confirms that WTO members that are subject to additional duties for failing to bring themselves into compliance with the WTO’s rulings and recommendations must do more than simply claim compliance in order to obtain relief from such duties.” The ruling ends an EU appeal from a March 2008 ruling by the trade organization finding that the EU failed to justify its ban on these imports and allowing the United States and Canada to impose duties on Roquefort cheese, truffles and chocolates because the EU’s practice violated international trade rules. The WTO Appellate Body apparently reversed that part of the March ruling which criticized the United States for…

USDA has announced the first meeting of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to formulate an agenda for its review of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Slated for October 30, 2008, the meeting also includes presentations on the history of the Dietary Guidelines published every five years by USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services. USDA has encouraged the public to submit written comments before October 24, 2008, to ensure prior transmission to the committee, but will accept comments throughout the committee’s deliberations.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is seeking comments on policies that regulate whether processors can use animal raising claims in labeling for meat and poultry products. “[R]ecent experience with labeling claims related to the raising of poultry have led FSIS to initiate a review of its evaluation and approval process for labels of meat and poultry products that contain animal raising claims,” stated the agency in a recent Federal Register notice. Animal raising claims include language that describes a product as “raised without antibiotics”; “not fed animal by-products”; “free range”; “vegetarian fed diet”; and “raised with added hormones.” FSIS currently evaluates such claims “by reviewing testimonials, affidavits, animal product protocols, and other relevant documentation provided by animal producers.” The agency is soliciting public input on this approval process, which also allows meat and poultry establishments to submit certification from outside organizations or entities in support of animal raising claims.…

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s (PCRM) Cancer Project has filed a petition with the USDA asking the agency to prohibit processed meats from school cafeteria menus. The initiative follows an advertising campaign warning about the purported cancer risks of processed meat consumption. Further details about the campaign appear in issue 277 of this Update. PCRM advocates a vegetarian diet and opposes animal research. See PCRM Press Release, October 9, 2008; meatingplace.com, October 13, 2008.

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