Tag Archives California

A consumer has filed putative class action alleging that Vilore Foods Co. Inc. misleadingly marketed Kern’s Nectar canned beverages as natural because they contain malic acid, “a synthetic chemical that is used to make manufactured food products taste like real fruit.” Gross v. Vilore Foods Co. Inc., No. 20-0894 (S.D. Cal., filed May 13, 2020). The complaint asserts that the products violate the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act because they “contain additional flavoring ingredients that simulate and reinforce the characterizing flavor,” thus requiring Vilore “to disclose those additional flavors rather than misleadingly suggest that the Product is flavored only by the labeled natural juices.” A footnote indicates that the can packaging contained the statement as of 2017 but the “manufacturer apparently has since deleted ‘100% Natural’ on the retail can labels.” The plaintiff seeks damages and injunctions prohibiting deceptive advertising and requiring corrective advertising for alleged violations of California’s…

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has filed a lawsuit arguing that a 2015 assessment issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) “ignores the most logical alternative” in determining the national approach to combating avian influenza in poultry-production facilities. Humane Society of U.S. v. USDA, No. 20-3258 (C.D. Cal., W. Div., filed April 8, 2020). HSUS argues that USDA failed to adequately detail alternatives to its approach to a bird flu pandemic and instead chose as the “preferred alternative” a practice that includes shutting down a facility’s ventilation system, allegedly resulting in the birds inside suffocating and “essentially cook[ing] the conscious birds to a protracted, and unnecessarily torturous death.” HSUS seeks a declaration that USDA’s action was arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has announced that the state will provide workers in the food sector—including farmworkers and employees at grocery stores and fast food restaurants—with two weeks of paid sick leave. The order aims to “fill[] a gap left by federal relief that had provided similar paid leave benefits for employers with fewer than 500 workers,” according to the announcement. The Executive Order also “provides health and safety standards to increase worker and customer protection by permitting workers at food facilities to wash their hands every 30 minutes, or as needed, to increase proper sanitation measures.”

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and several agricultural firms have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) challenging the agency's denial of the group's petition seeking to ban organic certification of hydroponic food growers. Ctr. for Food Safety v. Perdue, No. 20-1537 (N.D. Cal., filed March 2, 2020). USDA denied CFS's January 2019 petition, and CFS argues that the denial was arbitrary and capricious and violates the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). The complaint asserts that USDA ignored the National Organic Standards Board's 2010 recommendation against certifying hydroponic operations as organic and "issued a blanket statement" allowing certification that contradicted the recommendation of the board and a hydroponics task force. "USDA offered no supporting rationale for its statement. USDA made the statement in a website announcement, without any opportunity for public input and without taking any rulemaking action," the plaintiffs argue. Further, "USDA failed to explain…

A California federal court has granted certification to a class of consumers who purchased honey from one of the brands produced by the Sioux Honey Association who believed the honey to be "pure" or "100% pure. Tran v. Sioux Honey Ass'n, No. 17-0110 (C.D. Cal., entered February 24, 2020). The plaintiff asserts that the honey is not "pure" because it contains traces of glyphosate. The court assessed the plaintiff's claims and found that they met the certification requirements of numerosity, commonality and typicality; further, she was found to be an adequate representative of the proposed class. Accordingly, the court certified a class of California residents who have purchased a Sue Bee honey product since January 2014.

A California federal court has rejected a settlement in a lawsuit that alleged Kellogg Sales Co. misled consumers by marketing its products as "healthy." Hadley v. Kellogg Sales Co., No. 16-4955 (N.D. Cal., San Jose Div., entered February 20, 2020). The court found the settlement agreement to be invalid for several reasons: (i) "the release of the claims is overbroad"; (ii) the parties did not show that certification was appropriate; (iii) the parties failed "to provide sufficient information to justify a proposed reversion to Kellogg"; (iv) several forms associated with class participation contained errors; and (v) the "settlement structure is currently inconsistent with the fact that the voucher portion of the settlement constitutes a coupon settlement under the Class Action Fairness Act." Shook Partner Lindsey Heinz and Associate Elizabeth Fessler wrote an article for Law360 on the settlement when it was announced in late 2019, focusing on the lessons companies…

Miyoko's Kitchen Inc. has filed a lawsuit asserting that California infringed its First Amendment right to free speech by requiring the removal of "truthful messages and images from its website and its product labels—including the phrase '100% cruelty and animal free,' the use of the word 'butter' in the phrase 'vegan plant butter,' and even an image of a 'woman hugging a cow.'" Miyoko's Kitchen v. Ross, No. 20-0893 (N.D. Cal., filed February 6, 2020). The company reportedly received a letter from California in December 2019 that "orders Miyoko's to remove claims that its vegan products are '100% cruelty and animal free,' 'cruelty free,' and 'lactose free'—all entirely truthful statements." "For decades, plant-based producers have used terms like 'vegan cheese,' 'soy milk,' and 'cashew yogurt,'" the complaint asserts. "Consumers are not confused by these labels. In fact, plant-based dairy terms are so widely used that the [U.S. Food and Drug…

A California appeals court has determined that the "no sugar added" phrasing on Califia Farms' Cuties tangerine juice does not imply to consumers that competitors add sugar to their products. Shaeffer v. Califia Farms LLC, No. B291085 (Cal. App. Ct., entered February 6, 2020). The lower court dismissed the complaint, ruling that the "no sugar added" representation was truthful. The appeals court considered "statements a business affirmatively and truthfully makes about its product and which do not on their face mention or otherwise reference its competing products at all." The court found that a "statement may be 'fraudulent' (and hence actionable) if it is 'deceptive and misleading in its implications,'" but declined to hold as actionable truthful statements about a company's own product when the argument is that a reasonable consumer would "(1) likely to infer from such a statement that the very same statement is untrue as to comparable,…

Four consumers have filed a putative class action alleging that BA Sports Nutrition's BodyArmor SuperDrink sports drinks are "unlawfully fortified junk food." Silver v. BA Sports Nutrition LLC, No. 20-0633 (N.D. Cal., filed January 28, 2020). "BodyArmor does not provide 'superior' or 'better' hydration to Plaintiffs and other consumers than other beverages, nor are the Plaintiffs or the general public hydration deficient and/or in need of its characteristics to replenish them from dehydration," the complaint asserts. The plaintiffs argue that BodyArmor is a sugar-sweetened beverage "that scientifically links to serious medical conditions, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, when regularly consumed." They allege that they "would not have purchased BodyArmor, purchased as much of it, or paid as much for it, had they understood that consumption does not provide them with a drink comprised of natural ingredients and/or that was more, natural, better for them than other drinks."…

A California federal court has refused to approve a $6.5 million settlement between Tri-Union Seafoods and commercial food preparers. In re Packaged Seafood Prods. Antitrust Litig., No. 15-2670 (S.D. Cal., entered January 17, 2020). The court found that the proposed $6.5 million, half of which would go to attorney's fees and $2 million to costs and expenses, "would provide at most $1.5 million" to the class. The gross settlement amount "is approximately one-third of the damages," the court noted, and "a rough calculation suggests that [the class] will collectively receive approximately 6.85% of the damages they attribute to [the defendant]."

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