A California federal court has certified a class of consumers challenging the “natural” label on Kraft’s fat-free cheddar cheese product but limited the class only to consumers who relied on that labeling when purchasing the product. Morales v. Kraft Foods Grp., Inc., No. 14-4387 (C.D. Cal., order entered June 23, 2015). The complaint had asserted that artificial coloring in the product precluded Kraft from labeling the cheese as “natural.”

The court found that the proposed class met the numerosity, commonality, typicality and adequacy of representation standards, then focused on whether the common issues predominate over any individual issues. Kraft argued that the plaintiffs could not show that every member of the proposed class relied upon the “natural” representation because the term “natural” may mean different things to different people. The court disagreed but noted that Kraft could make that argument later in the legal process.

Kraft also challenged the ascertainability of the class, arguing that without purchase records, the parties would be unable to determine the potential class. The court was unpersuaded, noting that without self-identification of class members, class actions for products with “modest”retail prices would rarely be ascertainable, which is inconsistent with the purposes of the class action. Accordingly, the court certified the class, but limited membership to those who can swear that they were misled by the “natural” representation when purchasing the product.


Issue 570

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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.