In a putative class action against Amy’s Kitchen, a federal court in California has dismissed with leave to amend claims that the company has mislabeled its products by listing “evaporated cane juice” (ECJ) or “organic evaporated cane juice” as an ingredient. Figy v. Amy’s Kitchen, Inc., No. 13-3816 (N.D. Cal., order entered November 25, 2013).

The company argued that the plaintiff “failed to allege that he relied on the products’ ingredient labeling” and thus lacked standing under the state’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL). According to the plaintiff, “reliance on a label misrepresentation is not a necessary element of a claim under the unlawful prong of the UCL.” Interpreting and applying In re Tobacco II Cases, 46 Cal. 4th 298 (2009), and Kwikset Corp. v. Superior Court, 51 Cal. 4th 310 (2011), the court held, “because the statutes plaintiff relies on prohibit specific types of misrepresentation on food labels—the listing of an ingredient by a name other than its common or usual name—the actual reliance requirement applies to plaintiff’s claim even though it is brought under the unlawful prong of the UCL.”

The court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that an inference “of reliance arises wherever there is a showing that a misrepresentation was material.” In the court’s view, “a plaintiff must still at minimum allege that he saw the representation at issue.” The court ordered the plaintiff to file an amended complaint, if he chooses to do so, by December 13, 2013.

 

Issue 506

About The Author

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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