The Nutrition Business Journal spoke to Shook Partner Cary Silverman on the rise of lawsuits stemming from “clean labels” listed on food products. While consumers may want easier-to-read labels, this shortened language may open the door to potential lawsuits.

Silverman, who co-authored the 2017 report “The Food Court: Trends in Food and Beverage Class Action Litigation,” for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, says that transparency creates skepticism.

“I can only imagine the internal battles within food companies between marketing and legal,” Silverman told NBJ. “I understand why a company would want information printed transparently on the front of the package, but on the other hand, there is a reason lawyers like fine print. When you remove the fine print from a label and go with the basics, it could be a plaintiffs’ lawyer’s dream.”

Silverman’s report, which was co-authored with Shook Partner Jim Muehlberger, found that 20 food-marketing class actions were filed in 2008, while 2015 and 2016 saw 425 active cases. Defense attorneys argue that many of the suits are baseless.

“It’s all about the money,” said Silverman. “Their goal is a quick settlement. Rarely do these cases even get to class certified, let alone go to trial. These firms figure if they file 10 lawsuits, maybe six will be settled, two will be dismissed on merits, and the rest they’ll withdraw once they realize they are in a bad position.”

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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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