A California federal court has dismissed a putative class action alleging
Nestlé USA Inc. violates state laws about notifying consumers of products
sourced from forced labor because of Nestlé’s partnership with a company accused of using slave labor to catch and supply its fish. Barber
v. Nestlé USA Inc., No. 15-1364 (C.D. Cal., order entered December 9,
2015). The plaintiffs asserted that some of Nestlé’s Fancy Feast® cat food products include fish supplied by Thai Union Frozen Products, which
acknowledges that some of its smaller fishing boats use forced labor, but
“it is virtually impossible to say how pervasive the problem is,” according
to the court.

Nestlé argued the plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the safe harbor
doctrine created by the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of
2010, which “requires any retailer who does business in California and
has annual worldwide gross receipts exceeding $100 million to make
specific disclosures on its website about efforts it makes to ‘eradicate
slavery and human trafficking from its direct supply chain.’” In passing
this statute, Nestlé argued, the legislature already considered whether
additional related disclosures beyond those mandated by the act could
subject companies to liability under other laws. The court examined
precedent and the act’s legislative history to determine that California’s
legislature had adequately considered the disclosures and decided
against requiring them. Accordingly, the court granted Nestlé’s motion to
dismiss with prejudice.


Issue 587

About The Author

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.