JD Supra 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards selected Shook, Hardy & Bacon as the “Top Firm for Food & Beverage” news. Shook was chosen from a crowded field of more than 50,000 authors whose work was published on the site in 2018. Shook was recognized for the second consecutive year for insights and commentary in the Food and Beverage Litigation Update, achieving the “highest visibility and engagement for their particular expertise” in the practice area. The legal news site’s readers chose ten top authors and one top firm in each of 26 categories. Shook Partner Mark Anstoetter was ranked first among the “Top Authors” in Food & Beverage. According to JD Supra, honorees were selected for their coverage of “topics at the intersection of food, beverages and the law,” including U.S. Food and Drug Administration labeling, risk mitigation, trademark protection and export issues. Anstoetter was also noted in a subsequent article,…

The meat industry is moving towards self-regulation for identifying diseased animals, an article in The Washington Post asserts. The article documents a series of changes shifting responsibility for identifying contamination in meat production, especially pork and poultry, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to employees of the regulated production plants. The Post spoke to a former hog inspector who worked under the trial program for testing the proposed system. “I saw the alleged inspections that were performed by plant workers; they weren’t inspections. They were supposed to meet or exceed USDA standards — I never saw that happen,” the Post quotes him as saying. USDA also states that plants participating in the trial program had fewer worker injuries, but Texas State University researchers reportedly found it “impossible” for the agency “to draw any statistically valid conclusion about worker injury rate differences” based on data the researchers obtained through a…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that Danone US Inc. markets its So Delicious Coconut Milk to health-conscious consumers using health and wellness claims despite coconut milk’s level of saturated fat. Heymsfield v. Danone US Inc., No. 19-0589 (S.D. Cal., filed March 29, 2019). The plaintiff alleges that coconut milk “is unhealthy” because it “is essentially just coconut oil in water,” and coconut oil “is mainly saturated fat.” The complaint cites studies purportedly linking saturated fat consumption and elevated risks of cardiovascular disease. Danone allegedly markets itself as “a company ‘making food that’s good for you’ and products ‘that you can feel good about sipping, biting, pouring, scooping licking and chugging throughout your day,’” the complaint argues. In addition, “the Product was expressly promoted as being able to help consumers maintain healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis.” The complaint provides screenshots of the So Delicious website, which compares…

A California federal court has rejected a settlement agreement between Trader Joe’s and consumers who alleged that the store’s tuna cans contained too much slack fill. In re Trader Joe’s Tuna Litig., No. 16-1371 (C.D. Cal., entered April 1, 2019). The court rejected the agreement on choice-of-law grounds, finding that the plaintiff failed to “conduct the required analysis” needed to apply California law to a nationwide class of purchasers. The denial was issued without prejudice, and the court granted leave to refile within 60 days of the order.

The EU agriculture committee has reportedly approved a prohibition on the use of the term “meat” to describe vegetable-based products, including bean burgers, vegan sausages and tofu steaks. The provision would limit the use of “steak,” “sausage,” “burger,” “hamburger” and “escalope” to only describe “edible parts of the animals.” One French politician reportedly described the bill as beneficial for consumers. “We felt that steak should be kept for real steak with meat and come up with a new moniker for all these new products. There is a lot to be done in this front, a lot of creativity will be needed,” The Guardian quotes Member of the European Parliament Éric Andrieu as saying. “People need to know what they are eating. So people who want to eat less meat know what they are eating – people know what is on their plate.” Before the provision can take effect, the full…

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is accepting comments on draft dietary reference values for sodium and chloride. The draft values deem 2 grams of sodium and 3.1 grams of chloride per day to be “safe and adequate, considering evidence on the risk of cardiovascular disease on the one hand and nutrition adequacy on the other.” EFSA will accept comments until May 7, 2019.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it will take a number of steps to advance its consideration for the potential regulatory framework for cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) products. Specifically, this includes a public hearing, an agency working group, question-and-answer updates and the possibility of enforcement actions. A public hearing on May 31, 2019, aims to obtain “scientific data and information about the safety, manufacturing, product quality, marketing, labeling, and sale of products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds.” Electronic or written comments will be accepted until July 2, 2019. FDA is seeking comments, data and information related to (i) what levels of cannabis cause safety concerns; (ii) how the mode of delivery (e.g., ingestion, absorption, inhalation) affects the safety of, and exposure to, cannabis; (iii) how cannabis interacts with other substances; and (iv) standardized definitions for cannabis-related ingredients, supply chain quality control, effective marketing and labeling of…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that Bareburger Group misrepresents its restaurants as selling only organic food despite using some non-organic ingredients in its products. Rosenberg v. Bareburger Grp., No. 19-1634 (E.D.N.Y., filed March 22, 2019). The plaintiff and Bareburger were the subjects of a New York Times article in August 2018 that explored the use of the term "organic" in restaurant advertising. The complaint asserts that Bareburger features the term "organic" throughout its signage, menu descriptions and marketing but does not ensure that the products are fully organic. "Defendant's executives confirmed that approximately 75 to 80 percent of the burgers were organic, not 100 percent, contrary to the labels," the plaintiff alleges, citing the New York Times article. "Defendant's 'Organic' restaurants have countless non-organic ingredients including lamb and bison and mayonnaise and tomatoes—crucial condiments when it comes to dressing up a purportedly organic burger." For allegations…

A lawsuit alleging that StarKist misleads consumers by paying to feature the American Heart Association's (AHA's) Heart-Check Mark will continue after a New York federal court refused to dismiss the complaint. Warner v. StarKist Co., No. 18-0406 (N.D.N.Y., entered March 25, 2019). The court refused to dismiss the plaintiff's allegation that the Heart-Check Mark materially misleads consumers—finding "StarKist’s failure to argue that the omission of language indicating it paid to place the Heart Check-Mark on its products would not mislead a reasonable consumer"—but noted that "this is a close call, which could be revisited at the summary judgment stage." The court dismissed the plaintiff's request for an injunction because it found "no 'real and immediate' threat of future injury" because the plaintiff's "own allegations indicate that he will not purchase or pay as much for the product going forward."

A California federal court has granted certification to a class of Mike & Ike purchasers in a lawsuit alleging that the candy boxes contain too much non-functional slack-fill. Escobar v. Just Born Inc., No. 17-1826 (C.D. Cal., W. Div., entered March 25, 2019). The plaintiff had alleged that the box of Mike & Ike candies she purchased at a movie theater contained 46 percent slack fill. Meanwhile, another California federal court denied certification to a class of consumers who purchased Gardenburger vegetarian hamburgers, finding that the damages theory proposed by the plaintiff was insufficient to calculate the amount of damages. Mohamed v. Kellogg Co., No. 14-2449 (S.D. Cal., entered March 23, 2019). The approach suggested by the plaintiff would have calculated "the percentage of the price premium" but did not include a calculation to arrive at the total amount of damages. "Plaintiff has not proposed to conduct a hedonic regression…

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