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A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that several ingredients in LaCroix sparkling water, which is marketed as “always 100% natural,” are “non-natural flavorings and synthetic compounds.” Rice v. Nat’l Beverage Corp., No. 2018-CH-12302 (Ill. Cir. Ct., Cook Cty., filed October 1, 2018). The plaintiff alleges that the ingredients are synthetic and therefore cause consumers harm. “For instance, limonene causes kidney toxicity and tumors, linalool is used as a cockroach insecticide; and linalool propionate is used to treat cancer,” the complaint asserts. The complaint garnered significant media coverage, including in CBS News, Los Angeles Times and USA Today. A nutritional scientist reportedly told CBS News, “These compounds are found in nature, mostly in fruit such as oranges, limes, strawberries, pineapples, bananas….so we consume these compounds every day if we eat any kind of fruit.” In addition, Snopes noted, “The chemicals identified in the lawsuit [] are both safe…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging Trader Joe's Co. misleads consumers with its alkaline water, which the company purportedly markets as "ionized to achieve the perfect balance." Weiss v. Trader Joe's Co., No. 18-1130 (C.D. Cal., S. Div., filed June 26, 2018). The complaint asserts that Trader Joe's charges a premium for its alkaline water despite that "no genuine scientific research" supports the representations, including that the pH level of "9.5+" can provide additional hydration and balance out the acidity of certain foods. The plaintiff seeks class certification, injunctive relief, damages and attorney's fees for alleged violations of California's consumer-protection statutes.

American Dairy Queen Corp. has filed a lawsuit challenging W.B. Mason Co.'s application for a “Blizzard” trademark for its bottled water. Am. Dairy Queen Corp. v. W.B. Mason Co., Inc., No. 18-0693 (D. Minn., filed March 12, 2018). Dairy Queen alleges that it trademarked “Blizzard” for milkshakes in 1946 and has extended the mark to ice milk, ice cream, soft serve, machinery and restaurant services. The complaint asserts that the Blizzard marks are “widely recognized by the general consuming public of the United States as a designation of source of Dairy Queen’s goods and services.” Alleging trademark infringement, unfair competition by false designation, trademark dilution, unfair competition and violation of Minnesota’s deceptive trade practices law, Dairy Queen seeks an injunction barring W.B. Mason from using the Blizzard mark, destruction of packaging and advertising materials, award of profits generated from use of the infringing mark and attorney’s fees.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has asked the New York health department to establish enforceable maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFOA and PFOS in public drinking water. In its 65-page petition, NRDC detailed the results of a year-long study of state drinking water sources, including purported findings of elevated levels of the chemicals in eight communities and blood serum concentrations ten times the national average in one city. NRDC argues that “in the absence of federal safeguards,” New York should act to (i) establish a MCL below 10 parts per trillion; (ii) study the potential harms of feeding infants with formula mixed with water or the consumption of contaminated water by breastfeeding mothers or pregnant women; and (iii) conduct comprehensive health assessments of residents in communities found to have elevated PFOA or PFOS concentrations in drinking water sources.

An increasing number of companies are selling "raw water," or "unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized spring water," according to the New York Times. The companies target consumers seeking to leave the country's water infrastructure over concerns about treatments the water undergoes and the lead pipes that sometimes carry it to its destinations. One "water consciousness movement" start-up offers "fluoride-free," "chlorine-free" and "mineral electrolyte alkaline" options, while another sells a system that pulls moisture from the air to collect water. The founder of Live Water, which sells 2.5-gallon jugs of raw water for about $37 each, told the Times that "real water" should expire: "It stays most fresh within one lunar cycle of delivery," he is quoted as saying. "If it sits around too long, it'll turn green. People don't even realize that because all their water's dead, so they never see it turn green." "By convincing people to drink untreated water, the proponents of the raw…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging Pure Brazilian's "cold-pressed" coconut water undergoes high-pressure processing that “reduces the biological, enzymatic and bacterial activity” of the water, allegedly amounting to false advertising and fraud. Khallili v. Pure Brazilian LLC, No. 17-6425 (E.D.N.Y., filed November 5, 2017). The complaint asserts that high-pressure processing not only changes the nature of the product but increases its shelf life; “highly perishable” warnings on the bottle mislead consumers into believing the coconut water is unprocessed by making it appear similar to competing products that have a shorter shelf life, the plaintiff argues. The complaint also alleges that the product is sold at a premium price compared to coconut waters made with similar high-pressure processing. Claiming violations of New York consumer-protection laws, false advertising, fraud, implied warranty of merchantability and unjust enrichment, the plaintiff seeks class certification, damages, injunctive relief and attorney’s fees.

In a settlement with California, The Gatorade Co. has agreed to stop suggesting that drinking water harms athletes. California v. Gatorade Co., No. BC676734 (Cal. Super. Ct., Los Angeles Cty., entered September 21, 2017). Gatorade launched a mobile game featuring Usain Bolt that featured the runner speeding up when he ran over the Gatorade logo and slowing down when he touched water droplets. The complaint alleged that players were instructed to “Keep Your Performance Level High By Avoiding Water” and claimed Gatorade violated state unfair competition and false advertising laws. Under the settlement agreement, Gatorade will no longer make the “Bolt!” app available in any form that “creates the misleading impression” that water will hinder athletic performance or that water should be avoided. Gatorade also agreed not to make “statements that disparage water or the consumption of water” and will include a provision in contracts with endorsers that “clearly and…

In a lawsuit brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) alleging failure to meet a deadline to set limits on perchlorate levels in drinking water, a New York federal court has issued an order adopting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) preferred language to admit the failure. Nat. Res. Def. Council v. EPA, No. 16-1251 (S.D.N.Y., order entered September 19, 2016). An EPA attorney reportedly admitted in court that the agency had missed the deadline of February 11, 2013, to set limits on perchlorate in drinking water after announcing its intention to propose regulations two years prior. NRDC and EPA then submitted proposed orders admitting the failure, and the court adopted EPA’s language without further discussion. See Law360, September 20, 2016. The court’s order finds that (i) EPA triggered a non-discretionary duty to propose a maximum contaminant level goal by February 11, 2013; (ii) EPA failed to propose that goal…

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a dismissal of a consumer lawsuit against Costco Wholesale Corp. alleging mislabeling claims against VitaRain Tropical Mango Vitamin Enhanced Water Beverage. Maple v. Costco Wholesale Corp., No. 13-36089 (9th Cir., order entered May 9, 2016). The plaintiff had alleged the product was mislabeled because the product contains added caffeine, precluding the use of “natural” on the label. The district court dismissed the case because the plaintiff did not read the label before purchasing it; on appeal, the plaintiff asserted that he could amend the complaint to add “a subclass of plaintiffs who did read the relevant parts of the label.” Because he did not rely on the label, the plaintiff’s claim failed, and “the potential existence of other classes of which Plaintiff is not a member is irrelevant,” the court found. Further, the “district court abused its discretion by dismissing the action…

California Assembly Member Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) has introduced a bill (A.B. 14) that would require the labeling of food grown using recycled or treated water from oil and gas field activities. “No one expects their lettuce to contain heavy chemicals from fracking wastewater,” Gatto said. “Studies show a high possibility that recycled oil field wastewater may still contain dangerous chemicals, even after treatment.” The proposed label would state: “Produced using recycled or treated oilfield wastewater.” See Press Release of Assembly Member Mike Gatto, August 17, 2015.   Issue 576

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