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A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that Barlean’s Organic Oils misrepresents the health benefits of its coconut oils because “coconut oil is actually inherently unhealthy, and a less healthy option” when compared to “butter and various cooking oils.” Testone v. Barlean’s Organic Oils LLC, No. 19-0169 (S.D. Cal., filed January 24, 2019). The complaint asserts that coconut oil—“which is approximately 90 percent saturated fat”—increases the risk of cardiovascular heart disease and stroke, in contrast with representations on the Barlean’s website that its product is “Nature’s Most Versatile Superfood” that is “cold pressed fresh for your vibrant health.” The plaintiff alleges violations of California’s and New York’s consumer-protection statutes and seeks class certification, a corrective advertising campaign, restitution, damages and attorney’s fees.

A California federal court has ruled that plaintiffs alleging they might purchase Carrington Tea Co.'s coconut oil products in the future have established standing sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss. Zemola v. Carrington Tea Co., LLC, No. 17-0760 (S.D. Cal., entered January 24, 2018). The court had previously determined that the plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue an injunction because they failed to allege they would purchase the products in the future, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit later ruled in an unrelated case that plaintiffs can seek injunctions if they plausibly allege that they "will be unable to rely on the product’s advertising or labeling in the future, and so will not purchase the product in the future,” or that they "reasonably, but incorrectly" assume that the product had been improved. Because one plaintiff alleged that he would like to purchase Carrington’s products in the…

An Oregon plaintiff has filed a putative class action against the makers of Cascade Ice Coconut Water alleging the product contains no coconut. Silva v. Unique Beverage Co., LLC, No. 17­-0391 (D. Or., filed March 9, 2017). The complaint alleges that “[d]espite the large colorful coconuts and the word 'Coconut' that defendant puts on the front of its label, defendant’s product actually contains no coconut water, no coconut juice, no coconut pulp, no coconut jelly.” The plaintiff also claims that consumers buy coconut water for its “special health qualities,” making its sales a “billion-­dollar industry.” Washington-­based Cascade Ice’s label lists the primary ingredients of the coconut water product as carbonated water, strawberry puree, citric acid, pear juice concentrate and “natural flavors.” For violations of the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act, the plaintiff seeks equitable and injunctive relief, actual, statutory and punitive damages and attorney’s fees.   Issue 628

A California federal court has refused to dismiss a consumer’s putative class action alleging Nature’s Way misrepresents its coconut oil as a healthy alternative to butter, margarine and other cooking oils despite containing higher levels of saturated fat. Hunter v. Nature’s Way Products, No. 16-0532 (S.D. Cal., order entered August 12, 2016). The court dismissed Nature’s Way’s argument that it was not making a nutrient content claim, finding that a “Variety of Healthy Uses” phrase on the label was near enough to “representations about ‘Non-hydrogenated; No trans fat’ and claims regarding medium chain triglyceride content” to plausibly suggest a nutrient content claim. The claim of misrepresentation was plausibly pleaded as well, the court held, but granted Nature’s Way’s motion to dismiss claims under California’s Unfair Competition Law for lack of specificity. The court also refused to find standing to pursue injunctive relief because the plaintiff was unlikely to purchase the…

A consumer has filed a putative class action against Carrington Tea Co. alleging the company advertises its coconut oil as “a healthy alternative to butter and various cooking oils, despite that coconut oil is actually inherently unhealthy, and a less healthy option to these alternatives.” Boulton v. Carrington Tea Co., No. B609360 (Cal. Super. Ct., Los Angeles Cty., filed February 4, 2016). Coconut oil “is approximately 90 percent saturated fat” and “increases the risk of [coronary heart disease] and stroke” as well as other negative health effects, the complaint asserts. Despite these effects, the plaintiff argues, Carrington markets its coconut oil as healthy, and further, “Carrington’s labeling claims are designed to conceal or distract consumers from noticing that its Carrington Farms coconut oils are pure fat” by including the phrase “Healthy Foods for a Healthy Soul” and claiming that “Carrington Farm’s cold-pressed organic extra virgin coconut oil is the most…

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