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In a settlement with California, The Gatorade Co. has agreed to stop suggesting that drinking water harms athletes. California v. Gatorade Co., No. BC676734 (Cal. Super. Ct., Los Angeles Cty., entered September 21, 2017). Gatorade launched a mobile game featuring Usain Bolt that featured the runner speeding up when he ran over the Gatorade logo and slowing down when he touched water droplets. The complaint alleged that players were instructed to “Keep Your Performance Level High By Avoiding Water” and claimed Gatorade violated state unfair competition and false advertising laws. Under the settlement agreement, Gatorade will no longer make the “Bolt!” app available in any form that “creates the misleading impression” that water will hinder athletic performance or that water should be avoided. Gatorade also agreed not to make “statements that disparage water or the consumption of water” and will include a provision in contracts with endorsers that “clearly and…

An Illinois federal court has dismissed with prejudice a lawsuit alleging that Mondelez International falsely advertises Belvita breakfast biscuits and cookies as providing “four hours of nutritious steady energy.” Spector v. Mondelez Int’l, No. 15-4298 (E.D. Ill., entered September 27, 2017). The court held that the plaintiff failed to allege plausible facts to support her claim of false advertising and could not “rely on mere allegation of falsity, which is conclusory and thus not entitled to the assumption of truth.” The plaintiff "appears to draw her own conclusions” about daily calorie requirements, the court noted, and her arguments about variability of metabolism that would cause a consumer to receive fewer than four hours of energy “proceed as if the inherent inconsistency is self-evident.”

A New York federal court has denied class certification to a plaintiff alleging that Fifth Generation, Inc. falsely advertised Tito's Handmade Vodka, ruling that the plaintiff failed to propose a model to measure the alleged price premium. Singleton v. Fifth Generation, Inc., No. 15-474 (N.D.N.Y., entered September 27, 2017). The court noted that the plaintiff had satisfied certification requirements, but because he testified that he did not intend to purchase the product again, he had no standing to seek injunctive relief. In addition, the plaintiff's failure to provide a "suitable model to measure the alleged price premium for Tito’s vodka due to the ‘handmade representation’” led the court to rule that common issues did not predominate over individual ones. Additional details appear in Issue 590 of this Update.

The National Advertising Division (NAD) has recommended that French’s Food Company pull Facebook and print advertising claiming that its ketchup and mustard products are “better” than their competitors, preferred by children and free from high-fructose corn syrup. NAD found that French’s was unable to substantiate several claims—“Tastier Meals,” “Greatest Tasting Ketchup” and “America’s #1 mustard has the greatest tasting ketchup"—and could not support the contention that the absence of GMO ingredients or high-fructose corn syrup made the products “better” than those of competitors. NAD also noted that the Facebook ad did not refer to any improvements or changes in French’s products that would make them “better” than previous versions. French’s has agreed to discontinue the ads.

The National Advertising Division (NAD) has ruled that Mizkan America, Inc. provided a reasonable basis for its advertising claim that “consumers prefer the taste of Ragú Homestyle Traditional over Prego Traditional.” The Campbell Soup Co., which makes Prego, challenged the ad on the grounds that Mizkan’s consumer survey methodology was flawed. Both parties conducted a taste test of the products; the Mizkan test reportedly showed a consumer preference for Ragú while the Campbell test showed no preference. The Mizkan test included testing of all tomato-based sauces, while Campbell limited its test to traditional-style sauces. NAD found the Campbell test “overly restrictive” and that its results were not “stronger or more persuasive” than those of Mizkan.

Partner Katie Gates Calderon was a panelist at the Food and Drug Law Institute (FDLI) Food Advertising, Labeling and Litigation Conference in Washington, D.C., September 13-14, 2017. She joined Jessica Almy, policy director at The Good Food Institute, and moderator Stuart M. Pape of Polsinelli PC in a discussion of “Naming of Plant-Based Food Products and Standards of Identity.” The panel explored legal issues in naming and the role of standards of identity in the ever-growing world of alternative products.

The National Advertising Division (NAD) has recommended that Sanderson Farms change a campaign claiming that its competitors are tricking consumers with "raised without antibiotics" labels on poultry products. NAD found that the information in Sanderson's ads was accurate, including its claim that "none of the chicken you buy in the grocery store has antibiotics in it. By federal law, all chicken must be clear of antibiotics before they leave the farm." However, NAD recommended that the language Sanderson used to describe its competitors' "antibiotic-free" labels, including "marketing gimmick," "full of hot air," "just a trick to get you to pay more money" and "a phrase invented to make chicken sound safer," should be changed, noting that the scientific community lacks a consensus on the safety of consuming meat from animals raised using antibiotics. Sanderson reportedly "respectfully disagrees" with the decision but will adjust the campaign to reflect NAD's concerns. "The…

Sanderson Farms, Inc.’s "all natural" chicken contains pesticides, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, according to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth and Organic Consumers Association. Organic Consumers Ass’n v. Sanderson Farms, No. 17­-3592 (N.D. Cal., filed June 22, 2017). The plaintiffs allege that Sanderson’s chicken products are advertised as “100% natural,” but testing purportedly shows the products contain human and veterinary antibiotics, tranquilizers, growth hormones, steroids and pesticides. The complaint further alleges the presence of such drugs indicate that Sanderson’s raises its chickens in “unnatural, intensive­-confinement, warehouse conditions” rather than “sipping lemonade and playing volleyball” as represented in the company’s online advertising. For alleged violations of California consumer­ protection laws, the plaintiffs seek accounting of profits, injunctive relief, corrective advertising and attorney’s fees. “Consumers should be alarmed that any food they eat contains steroids, recreational or anti­-inflammatory drugs, or antibiotics prohibited for use in livestock—much…

The National Advertising Division (NAD) has recommended that Aldi, Inc. discontinue advertising based on a “market basket” comparison that claims consumers could save more than 50 percent by buying Aldi brands instead of name­-brand products at other grocery chains. Texas-­based HEB Grocery Co. first challenged print ads published in Houston then later added a challenge to print advertising outside Texas as well as in Facebook and YouTube ads. HEB challenged whether the ads “adequately informed the consumer of the basis of comparison and whether the advertiser’s broad savings claims were supported.” NAD found that where percentage savings claims did disclose the basis of comparison, the “disclosures were vague and non­specific” and did not clarify that the achieving the advertised savings would require switching from name brands to Aldi’s house brands. Further, NAD found insufficient evidence to support Aldi’s claims that consumers would “always” save up to 50 percent. Aldi will…

Ferrero SpA, maker of Nutella®, has reportedly won a dispute in the Brussels Court of Appeal over a rival’s advertising that claimed its similar product was healthier because it does not contain palm oil. Ferrero sued Belgium’s Delhaize Group after the “Choco” maker launched an ad campaign claiming its “certified without palm oil” spread was healthier and environmentally sustainable. The court held Delhaize made illegal and unproven comparisons in its environmental and health claims about palm oil and ordered the company to end the campaign. The court also barred Delhaize’s use of the word “chocolate” on Choco labels because the product does not contain chocolate. See 7 Sur 7, June 2, 2017.   Issue 637

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