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A consumer asserts that Miyoko's Kitchen Inc.'s "vegan butter" misleads consumers into believing the product is "a 'form' of butter" despite lacking "any milk or dairy ingredients and the functional, nutritional, sensory and organoleptic attributes which consumers associate with butter." Brown v. Miyoko's Kitchen Inc., No. 18-6079 (E.D.N.Y., filed October 30, 2018). The products "bask in dairy's 'halo' by using familiar terms to invoke positive traits—including the significant levels of various nutrients typically associated with real dairy foods," the complaint alleges. The plaintiff argues that consumers "prefer butter over its imitators" because of its "unique and unduplicated taste," "mouthfeel" and "ability to enhance the texture of and other qualities of (mashed) potato products." "The plant-based Product is not butter because it is derived from coconut (lauric) oil and nut ingredients, among others, and lacks any fat derived from cow's milk," the plaintiff argues. The product meets U.S. Food and Drug…

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has upheld a Wisconsin law requiring butter sold within the state to bear a grade issued by a Wisconsin-licensed butter grader or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Minerva Dairy Inc. v. Harsdorf, No. 18-1520 (7th Cir., entered October 3, 2018). The Ohio dairy challenging the law alleged it violated the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause and the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, but a lower court granted summary judgment in favor of Wisconsin. The appeals court first found that the statute does not violate substantive due process or equal protection because the law is “rationally related to at least two conceivable state interests”—consumer protection and promotion of commerce. Turning to the dormant Commerce Clause allegation, the court found that the law does not have a discriminatory effect on interstate commerce. The dairy argued that requiring out-of-state…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging Ornua Foods North America misleadingly marketed its Kerrygold butter as produced from grass-fed cows because the cows are fed for part of the year with soy, corn and other grains. Myers-Taylor v. Ornua Foods N. Am., No. 18-1538 (S.D. Cal., filed July 6, 2018). The plaintiff asserts Ornua charges a premium based on the grass-fed-cows claim because butter produced from grass-fed cows purportedly contains higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, butyric acid and vitamins A and K2 than butter from grain-fed cows. Claiming violations of the California consumer-protection statutes, breach of express warranty, fraud and negligent misrepresentation, the plaintiff seeks class certification, restitution, damages and attorney's fees.

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging the labels for Crystal Farms Refrigerated Distribution Co.'s Diner’s Choice mashed potatoes assert that the products are made with real butter and fresh whole potatoes while the products contain margarine and preservatives. Reyes v. Crystal Farms Refrigerated Distrib. Co., No. 18-2250 (E.D.N.Y., filed April 16, 2018). The complaint alleges that despite the prominent package labeling, the products’ nutrition labels list margarine as the third ingredient, misleading consumers who expect the potatoes to contain only butter. The complaint also asserts that “fresh mashed potatoes have a shelf life between 7 and 10 days. The Products’ 3-month shelf life is due to artificial chemical preservatives including sodium benzoate, disodium pyrophosphate, potassium sorbate and sodium bisulfite.” Alleging violations of New York’s General Business Law, negligent misrepresentation and fraud, the plaintiff seeks class certification, injunctive relief, damages and attorney’s fees.

A federal court has granted summary judgment to Wisconsin in an Ohio dairy's lawsuit alleging a Wisconsin law requiring butter to be graded by the U. S. Department of Agriculture or a state-licensed grader violated the commerce, due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Minerva Dairy, Inc. v. Brancel, No. 17-0299 (W.D. Wis., entered February 5, 2018). In its complaint, the dairy alleged that small companies are unable to afford USDA grading or the creation of separate packaging solely for Wisconsin sales, effectively blocking them from the state’s market. Finding that Wisconsin has a legitimate government interest in requiring grading labels on butter packages to assure consumers of product quality, the court held that the law does not violate the U.S. Constitution's equal protection or due process clauses. The court reasoned that the law does not give Wisconsin butter makers "a categorical ‘competitive advantage over their counterparts outside the…

A consumer has filed a lawsuit alleging Schwan's Co. falsely advertises Mrs. Smith's Original Flaky Crust Pies as made with “real butter” despite allegedly containing a vegetable and butter shortening blend. Leguette v. Schwan’s Co., No. 17-7599 (E.D.N.Y., filed December 31, 2017). The plaintiff alleges that she bought a Mrs. Smith's apple pie because the package prominently displayed the statements “Made With Real Butter,” “No Artificial Sweeteners, Dyes or Flavors” and "No High Fructose Corn Syrup.” The Nutrition Facts panel disclosed that the product contains a “Shortening Butter Blend (Palm Oil, Butter [Cream, Salt])” and corn syrup. Claiming violations of New York’s General Business Law, breach of warranties and unjust enrichment, the plaintiff seeks class certification, injunctive relief, damages and attorney’s fees.

A putative class action filed in New York has alleged that although the marketing for Simply Potatoes Mashed Potatoes features claims such as “Made with REAL Butter,” the product contains margarine made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Berger v. MFI Holdings Corp., 17-6728 (E.D.N.Y., filed November 17, 2017). “Despite the centrality of butter to [the product's] marketing and labeling,” the complaint asserts, “it also contains margarine as indicated on the ingredient list.” The plaintiff also alleges the product is sold at a premium price compared to similar refrigerated potato products. Claiming violations of New York consumer-protection laws and breach of implied warranty of merchantability, the plaintiff seeks class certification, damages, injunctive relief and attorney’s fees.

A Wisconsin creamery selling "Irishgold" butter and the distributor of Kerrygold butter have agreed to a consent decree that will end a trademark dispute. Ornua Foods N. Am. v. Eurogold USA, No. 17-0510 (E.D. Wis., motion filed July 25, 2017). After Wisconsin began enforcing a 1950s law requiring all butter sold in the state to bear a state or federal grade mark, effectively banning all imports and out-of-state artisanal products, Wisconsin dairy Old World Creamery began selling its own butter in packaging similar to Kerrygold. Additional details about the ban and trademark suit appear in Issue 631 of this Update. Under the consent decree, the dairy will (i) continue to sell its Irish-style butter but will amend the mark to “Euro Gold” or “Euro-Gold"; (ii) withdraw its trademark application for “Irishgold” butter; (iii) refrain from using “substantially similar” packaging; (iv) not sell any Irish-themed dairy products under a mark that…

An Ohio company has filed a lawsuit alleging Wisconsin’s ban on sales of ungraded butter violates the Commerce Clause, due process, equal protection and free speech. Minerva Dairy, Inc. v. Brancel, No. 17­299 (W.D. Wis., filed April 20, 2017). In early 2017, Wisconsin began enforcing a 1954 law requiring all butter sold in the state to bear either a state or a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grade mark, telling retailers and producers to remove out­-of-­state butter from store shelves or risk fines and imprisonment. Minerva Dairy, Inc. argues that the ban serves no rational or legitimate governmental interest. “In contrast to butter inspection, which ensures that the butter comports with health and safety regulations, butter grades are used only to ensure a government-­mandated taste,” the complaint argues. Minerva alleges that small companies are unable to afford obtaining USDA grading and creating separate labels solely for Wisconsin sales. Accordingly, the…

The Irish distributor of Kerrygold butter won an emergency restraining order against a Wisconsin creamery after alleging the creamery backed out of an agreement to process Kerrygold locally and later created its own nearly identical product, “Irishgold,” infringing Kerrygold’s trademark. Ornua Foods N. Am., Inc. v. Eurogold USA LLC, No. 17­0510 (E.D. Wis., filed April 10, 2017). A Wisconsin federal court granted the order after finding Ornua Foods, Kellygold’s maker, likely to win the trademark case it filed on the merits. After Kerrygold became the top-­selling imported butter in the United States, Wisconsin removed Kerrygold butter from stores under a statute requiring all butter sold in the state to bear either a Wisconsin or federal grade mark. After the ban, Ornua Foods began working with Wisconsin state officials and defendant Old World Creamery to process the Irish-­made butter a second time, making it eligible for a state grade mark. The…

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