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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 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…

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.

A Missouri federal court has denied Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc.’s motion to dismiss a putative class action alleging Canada Dry Ginger Ale is falsely labeled because it does not contain ginger. Webb v. Dr Pepper Snapple Grp. Inc., No. 17-0624 (W.D. Mo., entered April 25, 2018). The plaintiff alleged that although the labeling, packaging and marketing of the product includes the statement “Made from Real Ginger,” independent laboratory testing found no detectable ginger in the beverage. The lawsuit echoes similar putative class actions filed in California. The Missouri court rejected all of Dr Pepper Snapple Group’s arguments, finding the plaintiff had adequately pleaded each of the seven counts alleged, including violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, fraud and intentional misrepresentation.

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.

The Good Food Institute (GFI), with a group of plant-based and “clean” meat companies, has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) responding to a petition filed by the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association requesting that the agency restrict the definitions of “beef” and “meat” to products derived from live animals. GFI argues that USDA cannot grant the petition because the agency lacks authority over plant-based products, which are governed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. USDA is “authorized only to regulate meat labels to protect the health and welfare of consumers, not to prop up an industry or favor one production method over another,” the group asserts. In addition, the group argues that plant-based or clean meat product labels that “clearly and accurately disclose the nature of the product” do not violate the labeling requirements of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act or the Federal Meat Inspection…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging That’s It Nutrition deceptively labels and advertises its snack bars’ ingredients by using collective names for the fruits and vegetables they contain. Medina v. That’s It Nutrition, LLC, No. 18-2022 (E.D.N.Y., filed April 4, 2018). The complaint alleges that That's It fruit bar labels list generic names rather than specific ingredients; for example, one bar's label lists “apples” without specifying whether the ingredient is apple powder, puree or some other processed form of the fruit. “If the defendant began the bar production process with whole intact fruits, the ingredient list would indicate the presence of an additional binding ingredient such as a gel, pectin, juice concentrate or syrup, needed to keep the individual fruit matter together,” the complaint asserts. The label representations, which include “That’s it,” “All Natural,” “No Preservatives,” “Raw,” “No Purees or Juices,” “2 ingredient snack,” “Just Fruit” and…

A Maryland dairy has filed a First Amendment lawsuit challenging a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation requiring skim milk without vitamins A and D added to be labeled “imitation." S. Mountain Creamery, LLC v. FDA, No. 18-0738 (M.D. Pa., filed April 4, 2018). According to the complaint, South Mountain Creamery cannot selling its “all-natural, additive-free, pasteurized skim milk” in Pennsylvania because of FDA regulations mandating that skim milk sold in interstate commerce must contain the added vitamins. The creamery asserts that the fat-soluble vitamins dissipate before skim milk reaches the consumer, and FDA’s “own official materials discuss this issue.” According to the complaint, “The effect of the relevant regulations and laws is that any product consisting entirely of skim milk can never be labeled as ‘skim milk’ . . . [it] must be labeled as ‘imitation.’” The dairy alleges that the FDA definition misleads and confuses the public and that…

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