Category Archives State Courts

A California appeals court has declined to revive a lawsuit alleging that packaging for Foster Poultry Farms Inc. products misleads consumers by featuring a certification that the animals are treated humanely. Leining v. Foster Poultry Farms Inc., No. B291600 (Cal. App. Ct., 2nd Dist., entered February 23, 2021). The plaintiff had alleged that she believed the logo to indicate that the animals were treated humanely according to a reasonable consumer's standard rather than according to the industry's standards; the trial court granted Foster Farms summary judgment, finding that the American Humane Association's certification program was "independent, reasonable, and involved some level of expertise." The appeals court found that the plaintiff's causes of action were preempted by the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) because the labels were preapproved by the Food Safety and Inspection Service. If the plaintiff "were to prevail on her tort claims that the labels were nonetheless misleading,…

The estate of a meatpacking plant employee who died from a COVID-19 infection has sued JBS S.A. for negligence, wrongful death, misrepresentation and survival, alleging that the man’s death "was the predictable and preventable result of the JBS Defendants’ decisions to ignore worker safety.” Benjamin v. JBS S.A., No. 200500370 (Pa. C.P., Phila. Cty., filed May 7, 2020). According to the complaint, JBS increased production in March 2020 to meet increased demand for meat as shelter-in-place orders began to take effect across the United States. The estate argues that JBS “failed to provide sufficient personal protective equipment,” “forced workers to work in close proximity,” “forced workers to use cramped and crowded work areas, break areas, restrooms, and hallways,” “discouraged workers from taking sick leave in a manner that had sick workers in fear of losing their jobs,” and “failed to properly provide testing and monitoring for individuals who may have…

The Environmental Research Center has filed a lawsuit alleging that Manitoba Harvest USA LLC Corp.’s food products contain lead and cadmium levels exceeding the amounts permitted by California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop. 65). Envtl. Research Ctr. Inc. v. Manitoba Harvest USA LLC Corp., No. RG19038961 (Cal. Super. Ct., Alameda Cty., filed October 15, 2019). The complaint asserts that Manitoba Harvest “has knowingly and intentionally exposed numerous persons to lead and/or cadmium without providing any type of Proposition 65 warning” to “the public, who undoubtedly believe they have been ingesting totally healthy and pure products pursuant to the company’s statements.” The advocacy group seeks civil penalties, injunctive relief and declaratory judgment.

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that Bacardi U.S.A. Inc.'s Bombay Sapphire is made with grains of paradise, amounting to adulteration under Florida law. Marrache v. Bacardi U.S.A. Inc., Filing No. 93932678 (Fla. Cir. Ct., 11th Jud. Cir., filed August 9, 2019). The complaint cites a Florida statute deeming the inclusion of grains of paradise—along with several other substances described as "poisonous or injurious to health," including opium, capsicum, laurel water and cochineal—in any liquor intended for consumption to be adulterated, amounting to a felony of the third degree. The plaintiff notes that the Bombay Sapphire bottle features an etching of 10 botanicals, including grains of paradise—which "has been used in other parts of the world for medicinal purposes including, without limitation, to treat impotence and to stimulate miscarriages when a pregnancy was unwanted."

Ghirardelli and Russell Stover have agreed to pay $750,000 to settle allegations brought by the district attorneys of several California counties, according to a Yolo County press release. The California counties alleged that the chocolate companies “packaged certain chocolate products in oversized containers which can give consumers the misleading appearance that they are purchasing more product than they are actually receiving.” In addition, Ghirardelli allegedly misrepresented the amount of cocoa in one of its products. “Consumers have the right to expect full value in their purchases and compliance with packaging requirements is an integral part of the process,” the Yolo County district attorney is quoted as saying. “We will continue to aggressively monitor businesses and prosecute those that violate consumer protection laws.”

A consumer has filed a putative class action challenging La Lechonera Products Inc.'s "all natural" and "no preservatives" representations on its marinade packaging, alleging that the presence of citric acid and canola oil in the product preclude the company from making those marketing claims. Williams v. La Lechonera Prods. Inc., No. 2018-39361-CA-01 (Fla Cir. Ct., 11th Jud. Dist., filed November 26, 2018). The complaint asserts that canola oil and citric acid are substantially processed and synthetic ingredients. The plaintiff alleges that La Lechonera injured him and other consumers in 14 ways, including that the consumers "paid a sum of money for Products that were not as represented," "ingested a substance that Plaintiff and other members of the Class did not expect or consent to," "were denied the benefit of truthful food labels," and "were forced unwittingly to support an industry that contributes to environmental, ecological, and/or health damage." The plaintiff…

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…

The Center for Food Safety has filed a lawsuit alleging Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods Inc. violates California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop. 65) by failing to warn consumers that its children’s food products contain levels of acrylamide in excess of 0.2 micrograms per day. Ctr. for Food Safety v. Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods, Inc., No. RG18915114 (Cal. Super. Ct., Alameda Cty., filed August 1, 2018). The advocacy group alleges that four of the company’s frozen vegetable products contain levels of acrylamide outside of safe-harbor limits and that none of the products carry the “clear and reasonable warning” required by Prop. 65. The complaint seeks injunctive relief, civil penalties and attorney’s fees.

A couple has reportedly filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of State Health Services alleging that “burdensome” regulations bar them from selling their canned pickled vegetables at farmers’ markets. The plaintiffs own a farm near Austin and sell vegetables locally, but when they sought to expand into sales of pickled beets, okra and carrots, they learned that Texas bars sales of all pickled vegetables except cucumbers. Under state law, bakers can sell goods at markets, fairs and festivals without becoming licensed food manufacturers. The Health Services Department has limited sales to pickled cucumbers, specifically excluding other canned pickled vegetables. State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin), who sponsored an amendment to the law to allow the sale of pickles, reportedly told the Texas Tribune that he did not know the department’s rules construed "pickles" to mean only pickled cucumbers. "That pickle definition is kind of flying in the spirit of the legislation,”…

The Colorado Supreme Court has upheld a municipal ordinance charging a $0.20 "waste reduction fee" for paper grocery bags and prohibiting disposable plastic bags, ruling the charge is part of a regulatory program of waste management and not a tax. Colo. Union of Taxpayers Found. v. City of Aspen, No. 16SC377 (Colo., entered May 21, 2018). After two members of the plaintiff advocacy group paid the bag charge in Aspen, the group sued the city and members of the city council alleging the charge was a tax subject to voter approval under the state's Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The trial court and the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in the city’s favor. The court noted that grocers are permitted to retain a portion of the $0.20 charge to provide information to customers, train staff and improve collection and administration, while the remainder is submitted to the city on a form separate…

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