A consumer has alleged that The Kroger Co. misleads with its packaging for sparkling water products sold with flavors such as "Black Cherry," "White Grape" and "Kiwi Strawberry" because the waters are purportedly flavored artificially rather than with extracts of the fruits. Gammino v. Kroger Co., No. 21-2933 (N.D. Cal., filed April 22, 2021). The complaint asserts that Kroger's "packaging, labeling, and advertising scheme for these Products is intended to give consumers the impression that they are buying a premium, all-natural product instead of a product that is artificially flavored." The plaintiff asserts that the flavoring in the beverages comes from malic acid, "a synthetic chemical manufactured in a petrochemical factory from petroleum feedstocks." The complaint lists several causes of action, including alleged violations of Ohio and California's consumer-protection statutes as well as fraud by omission, negligent misrepresentation and money had and received.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has issued guidance with information advising food business operators on what information should be included on frozen food packaging. The guidance suggests when additional food-safety information should be included, such as a note to only thaw the necessary amount of food and to break up large pieces that have been frozen together inside the package. EFSA also notes that some products will have different shelf-life limits after the packaging has been opened because new pathogens could have been introduced. "From a food safety point of view, freezing prevents the growth of pathogens. However, even though the concentration of pathogens may decrease over time, elimination is usually not complete during the freezing period depending on the pathogen and initial concentrations, the duration of the frozen storage and conditions during freezing/thawing. Pathogenic microorganisms that survive frozen storage can recover during thawing and may grow and/or produce…

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization has released a report examining potential challenges in the production of food developed from edible insects. "The farming of insects for food and feed is relatively recent and brings with it both benefits and challenges, some of which this publication explores," the report states. "The regulatory frameworks that govern edible insects in various regions are discussed. In addition, the document highlights some of the other challenges, such as research gaps and scaling up production, that the insect sector will need to overcome if it is to have a more global reach." In addition to consideration of allergenicity of insects, the document covers "some of the major food safety hazards that should be considered, including biological agents (bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic) as well as chemical contaminants (pesticides, toxic metals, flame retardants). Safe and successful insect production must include efforts to prevent, detect, identify and…

A plaintiff has filed a putative class action alleging that Whole Foods Market Group Inc. misleads consumers by selling sparkling mineral water in a lemon raspberry flavor without an "appreciable amount" of lemons and raspberries. Kelly v. Whole Foods Mkt. Grp. Inc., No. 21-3124 (S.D.N.Y., filed April 11, 2021). The label of the water contains images of lemons and raspberries, the complaint asserts, and consumers "will expect the presence of a non-de minimis amount of lemon and raspberry ingredients, based on the pictures of these fruits." The plaintiff argues that the ingredient list, which shows the contents as "carbonated mineral water, organic natural flavors (raspberry, lemon)," fails to inform consumers the flavoring "mainly consists of flavors from fruits other than lemons and raspberries." "Because lemon oil and raspberry oil or raspberry extract are not separately identified ingredients, it means that any real lemon or raspberry flavoring is at most a de minimis…

Two consumers allege that Ancient Brands' Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth Protein products are marketed as beneficial to health but contain protein that is "largely indigestible to the human body and provides little to no actual benefit to consumers." Bush v. Ancient Brands LLC, No. 21-0390 (N.D.N.Y., filed April 5, 2021). The complaint asserts that Ancient Brands fails to calculate the protein content as a percentage of daily value or as calculated by the Protein Digestibility Amino Acid Corrected Score, allegedly violating state and federal regulations. The plaintiffs detail how protein content is calculated, asserting that the percentage daily value listed on the packaging provides consumers information on the quality of protein and is required on product packaging that contains a nutrient content claim for protein. The plaintiffs allege violations of New York and California consumer-protection statutes as well as fraudulent concealment, unjust enrichment and breach of express warranty.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has ruled that H.J. Heinz Co. Brands did not violate the Metchup trademark when it introduced a poll letting consumers choose the name of its mayonnaise-ketchup blend, which ultimately chose "Mayochup" as the winner but included "Metchup" as an option. Perry v. H.J. Heinz Co. Brands LLC, No. 20-30418 (5th Cir., entered April 12, 2021). The district court found no likelihood of confusion between Heinz' "convenient, yet perhaps gratuitous, mixture" and the plaintiff's product, which has sold about $170 worth of either mayonnaise-ketchup or mustard-ketchup blends "from the lobby of a nine-room motel adjacent to his used-car dealership in Lacombe, Louisiana." The appeals court found that the Metchup name was one of more than 90 suggestions submitted by consumers in Heinz' poll on what the mayonnaise-ketchup combination should be called, which also included, as the court noted, "Saucy McSauceface, an apparent…

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted 415-11 to pass the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act of 2021 (FASTER Act), a bill that will expand the definition of "major food allergen" to include sesame. The bipartisan bill, which passed the Senate in March 2021, will head to the White House for President Biden's signature. Upon enactment, sesame will become the ninth major food allergen, joining milk, egg, wheat, peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts, fish and soybeans.

The National Organic Program can continue to include foods grown through hydroponics following a ruling from a California federal court holding that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) acted reasonably in concluding that the statutory scheme does not exclude hydroponics. Ctr. for Food Safety v. Perdue, No. 20-1537 (N.D. Cal., entered March 18, 2021). The Center for Food Safety (CFS) had sought to limit foods labeled as "organic" to only foods grown in soil, but the USDA denied the advocacy group's petition. "The petition denial should not be disturbed because USDA reasonably defends its determination that [the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA)] does not compel the prohibition of hydroponics," the court held. "USDA’s ongoing certification of hydroponic systems that comply with all applicable regulations is firmly planted in OFPA. It therefore provides the 'reasonable explanation' required on review, so its denial will not be vacated."

A California federal court has ruled that the state "has not shown that the cancer warnings it requires are purely factual and uncontroversial" or "that Proposition 65 imposes no undue burden on those who would provide a more carefully worded warning." Cal. Chamber of Com. v. Becerra, No. 19-2019 (E.D. Cal., entered March 29, 2021). The California Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit seeking to enjoin new lawsuits from enforcing the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop. 65) against foods that contain acrylamide. The court considered evidence on the toxicity of acrylamide, finding that "some evidence does support such an inference" that eating food with acrylamide will increase a person's risk of cancer, but "dozens of epidemiological studies have failed to tie human cancer to a diet of food containing acrylamide. Nor have public health authorities advised people to eliminate acrylamide from their diets. They have at most…

A Minnesota federal court has ruled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) when it adopted the New Swine Inspection System (NSIS), which eliminated line speed limits for pork processing. United Food & Com. Workers Union, Local 663 v. USDA, No. 19-2660 (D. Minn., entered March 31, 2021). The court found that the final rule establishing the NSIS "contains no discussion, analysis, or evaluation of the worker safety comments" that it received during the notice-and-comment period. "The only response FSIS gave to the worker safety comments it solicited was to state that it lacked authority to regulate worker safety. In context, the agency appeared to suggest that it wanted to consider the comments but was not legally permitted to do so," the court held. "By offering its lack of legal authority and expertise on worker safety as its only…

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