Shook Partner Jim Muehlberger has participated in a Corporate Disputes roundtable on food and beverage litigation. He answers questions on the increase in litigation in the sector and what companies can do to assess their liabilities when facing a lawsuit.

“Food and beverage putative class action filings show no signs of letting up,” Muehlberger explains. “In the U.S., the FDA has indicated that it is investigating several issues that could prompt plaintiff’s attorneys to pursue new lawsuits, including the use of animal-associated terms to apply to plant-derived products such as ‘almond milk’ or ‘veggie burger.’” He also suggests that the introduction of cannabidiol into the food and beverage industry—if the agency ultimately permits its use—may trigger a number of lawsuits related to marketing claims and labeling, among other issues.

“Outside counsel can help food and beverage manufacturers comply with governmental agency rules and labelling guidelines before litigation is contemplated,” Muehlberger notes. “If a potential liability is identified—such as the use of plaintiff’s attorneys’ targeted ingredient du jour—outside counsel can help track how courts are interpreting complaints related to the ingredient so that case evaluation is simpler if a case is filed against the company later. Many plaintiff’s attorneys file cut-and-paste complaints against numerous companies, so observing how courts have received nearly identical complaints can be helpful for manufacturers and their counsel.”

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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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