Identifying themselves as “observant Jews,” three named plaintiffs have filed a putative class action lawsuit against a hot dog producer in Cook County, Illinois, alleging that its 100 percent beef claims breach an express warranty, violate the Uniform Commercial Code’s provisions on conforming goods, and constitute consumer and common law fraud. Gershengorin v. Vienna Beef, Ltd., No. 06CH25277 (Cook County, Illinois, filed Nov. 20, 2006). According to the complaint, “Vienna Beef knowingly omits informing the consumer public that Vienna Beef is using pork intestine as casing for its Natural Casing Beef hotdogs.” The plaintiffs, who claim they have been injured emotionally by the company’s fraudulent advertising campaign, are bringing the action on behalf of all U.S. residents who consumed a “Natural Casing Beef” hot dog manufactured by Vienna Beef that actually contained pork intestine casing.

The complaint asserts that questions of law and fact common to the class members include (i) “Whether Vienna Beef engaged in a pattern or practice of selling Vienna Natural Casing Hot Dogs as ‘all beef’ or ‘pure beef’ hotdogs without disclosing that it used pork intestines as the casing for such product”; (ii) “Whether Vienna Beef concealed the material fact that it was selling Vienna Natural Casing Hot Dogs as ‘all beef’ or ‘pure beef’ hotdogs without disclosing that they used pork intestines as the casing”; (iii) “Whether Vienna Beef advertised and sold Vienna Natural Casing Hot Dogs as ‘all beef’ or ‘pure beef’ hotdogs and whether this was a false and/or misleading statement or representation; and “ (iv) “Whether Vienna Beef engaged in consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices, or other unlawful acts.”

Plaintiffs are seeking actual and punitive damages; injunctive relief; restitution, disgorgement and other equitable monetary relief, attorney’s fees, and costs. Plaintiffs’ counsel Lance Raphael was quoted as saying “The case isn’t about Jews suing Vienna Beef. The case is about Vienna Beef not telling consumers that their all-beef hot dog contains pork, whether they’re Jews, Muslims, or Samuel L. Jackson.” See, November 27, 2006.

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For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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