Tag Archives California

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that Post Consumer Brands' Honey Bunches of Oats is misleadingly named because the cereals are sweetened primarily by "sugar, corn syrup, and other refined substances, and contain only miniscule amounts of honey." Tucker v. Post Consumer Brands LLC, No. 19-3993 (N.D. Cal., filed July 11, 2019). The complaint details the alleged "negative health effects of consuming excess amounts of sugar" and asserts that "the branding and packaging of the Products convey the clear message that honey is the primary sweetener or—at a minimum—that honey is a significant sweetener compared to sugar and other refined substances that are perceived by consumers to be unhealthy or less healthy. Unfortunately for consumers, this message is simply untrue." The plaintiff includes the ingredient lists for several Honey Bunches of Oats varieties, which show "sugar" as the second or third ingredient along with "brown sugar," "corn…

A California federal court has dismissed with prejudice a lawsuit alleging that Trader Joe's Co.'s "pure manuka honey" was "adulterated by the inclusion of cheaper honey." Moore v. Trader Joe's Co., No. 18-4418 (N.D. Cal., entered June 24, 2019). The court's decision notes a transcript from oral argument in which the plaintiff explained, "[T]here could be other flowers in the immediate area where the manuka flowers are. So the bees are not just going to the manuka flowers. They are going to the clover flowers. They are going to the … dandelions and they are all coming back to - to store the nectar in the same hive and so it's already adulterated when it gets into the hive." "In sum, Plaintiffs clarified that their adulteration theory is premised on the bees visiting different floral sources and returning to the hive resulting in a lower manuka pollen count, rather than…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that Tropicana Manufacturing Co. misrepresents its orange juice as "natural" because it contains a variation of malic acid that can be used as an artificial flavoring ingredient. Johnson v. Tropicana Mfg. Co. Inc., No. 19-1164 (S.D. Cal., filed June 20, 2019). The complaint, echoing similar actions filed by the same plaintiff's firm against other companies, alleges that the ingredient "malic acid" on the product's ingredient list is not the naturally occurring l-malic acid but rather d-l malic acid, which "is manufactured in petrochemical plants from benzene or butane—components of gasoline and lighter fluid, respectively—through a series of chemical reactions, some of which involve highly toxic chemical precursors and byproducts." The plaintiff alleges violations of California's consumer-protection laws and seeks class certification, restitution, damages, corrective advertising and attorney's fees.

A California federal court has entered a consent decree compelling the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to designate a list of high-risk foods as required by the Food Safety Modernization Act. Ctr. for Food Safety v. Azar, No. 18-6299 (N.D. Cal., entered June 7, 2019). The decree is the result of a lawsuit brought by the Center for Food Safety and Center for Environmental Health seeking to compel the agency to promulgate a list of "high-risk foods for which additional recordkeeping requirements are appropriate and necessary to protect the public health" as well as host the list on the FDA website. The decree lists deadlines for FDA to meet—including September 8, 2020, for the designation—but allows the agency to seek extensions if it needs one "despite FDA's best efforts (meaning commitment of agency time, money, energy, and resources that FDA reasonably anticipates will result in meeting the schedule in…

California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has confirmed that coffee will not be required to carry warnings about risks of cancer or reproductive harm mandated by the state's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop. 65). In a June 3, 2019, tweet, the agency stated that its "coffee regulation has been approved," finding that the chemicals "created by and inherent in roasting coffee beans or brewing coffee, do not pose a significant cancer risk." The agency indicates that the regulation will take effect October 1, 2019.

Mondelez International Inc. allegedly markets its Oreos as containing "Real Cocoa" despite containing "cocoa processed with alkali." Harper v. Mondelez Int'l Inc., No. 19-2747 (N.D. Cal., filed May 20, 2019). A plaintiff has asserted that the claim "'Always made with Real Cocoa' or 'Real Cocoa' is intended to differentiate the cocoa in the Products from cocoa that has been processed, such as cocoa powder 'processed with alkali,'" and Mondelez allegedly misleads consumers by including processed cocoa rather than unprocessed cocoa in Oreos. "No reasonable consumer would expect the cocoa in the Products to have been processed with alkalis, because 'real' represents the cocoa powder is included in its most unadulterated, non-artificial form," the plaintiff argues. "It is false, deceptive and misleading to conspicuously promote 'real cocoa' without any reference to the presence and use of alkalis either preceding or following because 'real cocoa' without any modifying terms implies the absence…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that O Organics and Lucerne Foods Inc. "greatly understate" the alcohol and sugar content of their kombucha. Freedline v. O Organics LLC, No. 19-1945 (N.D. Cal., filed April 10, 2019). The plaintiff argues that "the beverages contain more than three to five times the alcohol allowed for non-alcoholic beverages" and "are sold to unsuspecting children, pregnant women, persons suffering with alcohol dependence issues, and a host of other people for whom alcohol consumption may pose a grave and immediate safety risk." The complaint cites lab testing purportedly showing levels of alcohol by volume between 1.63 and 2.63 percent. The plaintiff alleges violations of California's consumer-protection statutes as well as breach of warranties, fraud, unjust enrichment and negligent misrepresentation, and he seeks class certification, damages, restitution and attorney's fees.

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.

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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