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Consumers have filed lawsuits alleging that companies misrepresent their products as "natural" because they contain d-malic acid. One lawsuit targets Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., alleging it mislabels its juices as free from artificial flavors despite containing d-malic acid rather than the naturally occurring l-malic acid. Froio v. Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., No. 18-12005 (D. Mass., filed September 24, 2018). The complaint further alleges that the juices contain furmaric acid, which is "manufactured from petrochemical feedstock, either benzene or butane, through chemical transformation to maleic anhydride." The plaintiffs argue that a "reasonable consumer understands Defendant's claims that the Products contain no 'artificial' flavoring to mean that the flavoring is derived from a natural source." For allegations of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment and violations of New York and Massachusetts consumer-protection statutes, the plaintiffs seek class certification, damages, injunctive relief, restitution and attorney's fees. Two consumers have alleged that Neurobrands LLC also…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that Stremick's Heritage Foods misrepresents its  Kern's juice as a "healthful, natural juice product made solely from fresh fruits" despite being "almost entirely sugar-water, with a small amount of fruit juice added for color and texture." Levin v. Stremick's Heritage Foods, No. 18-1748 (C.D. Cal., filed September 26, 2018). The complaint alleges that the juices "consist of 70% water and high fructose corn syrup, topped with 30% or less of the juice of the fruit for which the Products are named." The complaint also alleges that "pictorial representations" of "life-like" fruits on the packaging mislead consumers about the beverages' juice content. The plaintiff further argues that the products contain "massive amounts of refined sugar. The 'Apricot Nectar' Product, for example, contains 47 grams of sugar per serving—more than Grape Kool-Aid." According to the complaint, the juices are not healthful because excess…

Whole Foods Market Inc. has reportedly obtained a restraining order against Direct Action Everywhere, an activist group that was apparently planning a "week-long occupation" of a Whole Foods location in Berkeley, California. The group has previously targeted the company with protests challenging its "free-range" labels on chicken and alleging its vendors treat animals inhumanely on factory farms. The California Superior Court of Alameda County has reportedly restrained any member of Direct Action Everywhere from entering the Berkeley Whole Foods.

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a law that will prohibit restaurants from giving patrons straws unless the patrons request them. Brown issued a signing statement indicating that the bill's purpose is to reduce plastic waste. "Ocean plastic is estimated to kill millions of marine animals each year," Brown states. "Nor are humans immune as microplastics were recently found in tap water around the world. Plastics, in all forms—straws, bottles, packaging, bags, etc.—are choking our planet. It is a very small step to make a customer who wants a plastic straw ask for it. And it might make them pause and think again about an alternative. But one thing is clear, we must find ways to reduce and eventually eliminate single-use plastic products."

Two California courts have dismissed lawsuits brought by a competitor alleging kombucha companies misrepresented the amount of sugar and alcohol in their products. Tortilla Factory LLC v. Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha LLC, No. 18-2984 (C.D. Cal., entered September 11, 2018); Tortilla Factory LLC v. Better Booch LLC, No. 18-2980 (C.D. Cal., entered September 13, 2018). In April 2018, Tortilla Factory filed several lawsuits alleging that a number of its competitors, including Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha and Better Booch, misrepresent the alcohol and sugar content in their beverages in violation of federal law. The court in Rowdy Mermaid found that Tortilla Factory did not suffer an injury from Rowdy Mermaid's conduct; while the plaintiff argued that the companies are "vying for the same dollars from the same consumers," it failed to argue that "the two companies' products are sold in the same stores, through the same channels, or even in the same geographic…

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit alleging that Del Taco LLC failed to provide "a conciliation agreement acceptable to the Commission" following allegations of discriminatory practices against female employees. EEOC v. Del Taco LLC, No. 18-1978 (C.D. Cal., filed September 17, 2018). Allegations include sexual harassment of female employees by male shift leaders and general managers. The complaint asserts that after Del Taco was notified of the alleged harassment, it "failed to take prompt and effective remedial action reasonably calculated to end the harassment," including "failing to conduct an adequate investigation," "failing to adequately discipline harassing supervisors and/or coworkers," "failing to follow complaint procedures and take sexual harassment complaints seriously" and "actively deterring employees from making sexual harassment complaints." EEOC seeks class certification for the female employees and asks the court to compel Del Taco to "institute and carry out policies, practices, and programs to…

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has rejected a class member's objection to a settlement between Salov North America Corp. and a class of Filippo Berio olive-oil purchasers. Kumar v. Salov N. Am. Corp., No. 17-16405 (9th Cir., entered September 11, 2018). The appeals court held that the district court properly found the settlement "fair, reasonable, and adequate" after considering "the strength of the plaintiffs' case and the risk involved with further litigation."

Trader Joe's has agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle allegations that it underfills its five-ounce tuna cans. In re Trader Joe's Tuna Litig., No. 16-1371 (C.D. Cal., motion filed September 14, 2018). Under the agreement, class members will receive $29, which will be diluted pro rata if the total amount of claims exceeds the available funds. According to the motion for preliminary approval, the plaintiffs' investigation included "commissioning pressed weight testing of Trader Joe's Tuna and reviewing numerous pressed weight test reports in cooperation with qualified experts from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration."

The California legislature has passed a bill that would require retail food facilities to make the default beverages sold with children's meals "water, sparkling water or flavored water, as specified, or unflavored milk or a nondairy milk alternative, as specified." Flavored waters may not contain "added natural or artificial sweeteners," while nondairy milk alternatives must contain fewer than 130 calories. In addition, a restaurant's menu and advertisements must display the default beverages. The bill would "not prohibit a restaurant’s ability to sell, or a customer’s ability to purchase, an alternative beverage instead of the default beverage offered with the children’s meal, if requested by the purchaser of the children’s meal." The bill has been presented to Governor Jerry Brown for approval.

A California federal court has dismissed with prejudice a putative class action alleging that Diet Dr Pepper is falsely advertised as a weight-loss product. Becerra v. Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc., No. 17-5921 (N.D. Cal., entered August 21, 2018). The plaintiff alleged that the term “diet” leads consumers to believe the beverage is a weight-loss or weight-management product despite that aspartame could allegedly cause weight gain. The court, which previously dismissed the complaint three times, found implausible "that reasonable consumers would believe consuming Diet Dr Pepper leads to weight loss or healthy weight management absent a change in lifestyle.” The court held that the plaintiff again failed to plead facts that could pass a “reasonable consumer” test and that the plaintiff failed to sufficiently plead a causal link between aspartame and weight gain.

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