A D.C. court has granted summary judgment in favor of Hormel Foods Corp. in a lawsuit alleging that the company misleads consumers into believing that its products “are from animals that are humanely raised and not ‘factory-farmed’ and that its products do not contain preservatives or nitrites that are not from natural sources.” Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Hormel Foods Corp., No. 2016 CA 004744 (D.C. Super. Ct., entered April 8, 2019). The court held that the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (ALDF’s) claims were preempted, finding that applying the Washington, D.C., consumer-protection statute “to prohibit the use of terms that [the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)] approved would stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment of Congress’ purposes for consistent regulation of labeling meat and poultry products.”

“Federal law regulates labeling so that consumers can use labels as the authoritative source of information about a product’s ingredients, and if a producer can accurately use a term in a label, the producer should be able to use the same term in its advertising,” the court held. “Otherwise, for example, a state could make it illegal for a meat producer to state in its advertising that USDA approved labeling its product as ‘natural.'”

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