Posts By Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced a probe into whether baby food contains toxic elements such as arsenic and other metals. In a press release, James said, "“Baby food manufacturers have a legal and moral obligation to ensure the safety of their products, and provide peace-of-mind to the parents who rely on their products every day. Through this probe, I am committed to protecting the health and wellness of the next generation.” D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a lawsuit against Beech-Nut Nutrition Co., alleging "that Beech-Nut’s deceptive and misleading advertising violated the District’s consumer protection laws and misled parents that its baby food underwent the most stringent testing and was fully safe for babies when, in fact, the food contained high levels of toxic heavy metals." Racine is quoted as saying, “No company should profit by illegally deceiving parents about products that actually jeopardize the health and…

An EU study has examined New Genomic Techniques (NGTs), which can create genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and their potential effects on creating a sustainable food system in Europe. In a press release, Commissioner for Heath and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides said, "The study we publish today concludes that New Genomic Techniques can promote the sustainability of agricultural production, in line with the objectives of our Farm to Fork Strategy. With the safety of consumers and the environment as the guiding principle, now is the moment to have an open dialogue with citizens, Member States and the European Parliament to jointly decide the way forward for the use of these biotechnologies in the EU." The announcement notes that the EU will begin an open consultation "to discuss the design of a new legal framework for these biotechnologies." Among the findings of the study are that "NGT products have the potential to…

The European Court of Justice has ruled that alga Lithothamnium calcareum cannot be used in the production of food labeled as organic for the purposes of adding calcium. Natumi GmbH v. Land Nordrhein-Westfalen, No. C‑815/19 (E.C.J., entered April 29, 2021). Natumi GmbH manufactured a drink labeled as organic that is marketed as calcium-rich because of its red algae content, but the German state North Rhine-Westfalia imposed a fine on the company for adding non-edible algae to its products. "Natumi acknowledges that, since the use of calcium carbonate is prohibited for the calcium enrichment of organic products, many producers of soya-, rice- and cereal-based organic drinks add the Lithothamnium calcareum alga to them because it is naturally high in calcium. In addition, Natumi argues that that alga is a natural alternative to calcium and that its use for enriching organic food should be permitted," the court found. However, it stated, allowing the…

Food website Epicurious has announced that it will stop posting new recipes containing beef to avoid "giving airtime to one of the world’s worst climate offenders." As the Washington Post noted, "Reaction was swift and illustrated the meaning of the metaphor about tossing red meat to a crowd. Some praised the decision, noting that tastes have changed and that readers are looking for more plant-based, less meaty dishes. Others slammed Epicurious for 'canceling' beef." The North American Meat Institute commented, suggesting that the reduction in beef recipes will correspond with a reduction in web traffic, according to the New York Times. Others reportedly questioned the effectiveness of the move in achieving its stated goal, with the founder of Food Tank telling the Post that the move is "short-sighted" because options exist for sustainable beef production. "While beef consumption in the U.S. is significantly down from where it was 30 years ago, it…

According to a putative class action complaint, Kodiak Cakes LLC and Baker Mills Inc. deliberately mislead consumers by labeling Kodiak Cakes pancake and waffle mixes as containing 14 grams of protein despite allegedly containing only 11.5 grams. Hinkley v. Baker Mills Inc., No. 21-221 (D. Utah, filed April 13, 2021). "Consumers are increasingly health conscious and, as a result, many consumers seek foods high in protein to support weight loss, exercise, and general fitness, among other perceived health benefits of protein consumption," the plaintiffs argue. "To capitalize on this trend, Defendants prominently label their Kodiak Cakes products as providing specific amounts of protein per serving depending on the product, such as '14g protein' on the label of its Buttermilk Flapjack and Waffle Mix. Consumers, in turn, reasonably expect that each product will provide the actual amount of protein per serving that the label claims it will. In truth, however, Defendants’…

Tootsie Roll Industries has filed a trademark infringement action alleging Lafayette Bay Products, LLC, doing business as Spunky Pup, illegally copied its trade dress by manufacturing and selling a product called "Tootsie Pups." Tootsie Roll Indus. LLC v. Lafayette Bay Prods. LLC, No. 21-1997 (N.D. Ill., E. Div., filed April 14, 2021). Tootsie Roll Industries alleges that the dog treats sold as Tootsie Pups are shaped and colored like Tootsie Roll Midgees, "being brown and cylindrically shaped with a length approximately two times its diameter." Further, the treats are sold in packages that allegedly echo the Tootsie Roll Midgees packaging, including "prominent wording in the same position and the same white font, the large, dark brown middle panel, and the bright stripes on each side of the panel." Tootsie Roll Industries also notes that it has licensed its marks for sale on pet items, allegedly resulting in a likelihood of…

A consumer has alleged that The Kroger Co. misleads with its packaging for sparkling water products sold with flavors such as "Black Cherry," "White Grape" and "Kiwi Strawberry" because the waters are purportedly flavored artificially rather than with extracts of the fruits. Gammino v. Kroger Co., No. 21-2933 (N.D. Cal., filed April 22, 2021). The complaint asserts that Kroger's "packaging, labeling, and advertising scheme for these Products is intended to give consumers the impression that they are buying a premium, all-natural product instead of a product that is artificially flavored." The plaintiff asserts that the flavoring in the beverages comes from malic acid, "a synthetic chemical manufactured in a petrochemical factory from petroleum feedstocks." The complaint lists several causes of action, including alleged violations of Ohio and California's consumer-protection statutes as well as fraud by omission, negligent misrepresentation and money had and received.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has issued guidance with information advising food business operators on what information should be included on frozen food packaging. The guidance suggests when additional food-safety information should be included, such as a note to only thaw the necessary amount of food and to break up large pieces that have been frozen together inside the package. EFSA also notes that some products will have different shelf-life limits after the packaging has been opened because new pathogens could have been introduced. "From a food safety point of view, freezing prevents the growth of pathogens. However, even though the concentration of pathogens may decrease over time, elimination is usually not complete during the freezing period depending on the pathogen and initial concentrations, the duration of the frozen storage and conditions during freezing/thawing. Pathogenic microorganisms that survive frozen storage can recover during thawing and may grow and/or produce…

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization has released a report examining potential challenges in the production of food developed from edible insects. "The farming of insects for food and feed is relatively recent and brings with it both benefits and challenges, some of which this publication explores," the report states. "The regulatory frameworks that govern edible insects in various regions are discussed. In addition, the document highlights some of the other challenges, such as research gaps and scaling up production, that the insect sector will need to overcome if it is to have a more global reach." In addition to consideration of allergenicity of insects, the document covers "some of the major food safety hazards that should be considered, including biological agents (bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic) as well as chemical contaminants (pesticides, toxic metals, flame retardants). Safe and successful insect production must include efforts to prevent, detect, identify and…

A plaintiff has filed a putative class action alleging that Whole Foods Market Group Inc. misleads consumers by selling sparkling mineral water in a lemon raspberry flavor without an "appreciable amount" of lemons and raspberries. Kelly v. Whole Foods Mkt. Grp. Inc., No. 21-3124 (S.D.N.Y., filed April 11, 2021). The label of the water contains images of lemons and raspberries, the complaint asserts, and consumers "will expect the presence of a non-de minimis amount of lemon and raspberry ingredients, based on the pictures of these fruits." The plaintiff argues that the ingredient list, which shows the contents as "carbonated mineral water, organic natural flavors (raspberry, lemon)," fails to inform consumers the flavoring "mainly consists of flavors from fruits other than lemons and raspberries." "Because lemon oil and raspberry oil or raspberry extract are not separately identified ingredients, it means that any real lemon or raspberry flavoring is at most a de minimis…

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