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Consolidated litigation to determine whether Kind LLC misleads consumers by marketing its products as "all natural" and made without genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will continue after a two-year delay. In re Kind LLC "Healthy and All Natural" Litig., No. 15-2645 (S.D.N.Y., entered February 11, 2019). The court previously stayed the litigation in anticipation of U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance documents on when the uses of "natural" and "non-GMO" are appropriate on food labeling. "Given that there is no reason to continue the stay on the 'non-GMO' claims and that neither party wishes to litigate the claims in piecemeal fashion, it makes sense to begin discovery," the court held. "Moreover, this Court explained that the case for lifting the 'all natural' stay would be 'substantially stronger' if the FDA failed to provide guidance by August 2018. Six months later, guidance is still awaited. It is time for this multi-district…

Two consumers have alleged that National Beverage Corporation misleads buyers of LaCroix sparkling water because it advertises the products as “all natural” and “100% natural” while they contain flavors composed of “between 36% and 98% synthetic ingredients.” Graham v. Nat’l Beverage Corp., No. 19-0873 (S.D.N.Y., filed January 29, 2019). The complaint cites the Center for Applied Isotope Studies at the University of Georgia, which uses “compound specific stable isotope analysis [] and gas chromatography isotope ratio mass spectrometry to generate multi-component, multi-element data for the enhanced characterization of organic chemical processes and source validation.” The plaintiffs seek class certification, injunctions, damages and attorney’s fees for alleged violations of New York consumer-protection law, unjust enrichment and breach of warranties.

A consumer has filed a putative class action challenging La Lechonera Products Inc.'s "all natural" and "no preservatives" representations on its marinade packaging, alleging that the presence of citric acid and canola oil in the product preclude the company from making those marketing claims. Williams v. La Lechonera Prods. Inc., No. 2018-39361-CA-01 (Fla Cir. Ct., 11th Jud. Dist., filed November 26, 2018). The complaint asserts that canola oil and citric acid are substantially processed and synthetic ingredients. The plaintiff alleges that La Lechonera injured him and other consumers in 14 ways, including that the consumers "paid a sum of money for Products that were not as represented," "ingested a substance that Plaintiff and other members of the Class did not expect or consent to," "were denied the benefit of truthful food labels," and "were forced unwittingly to support an industry that contributes to environmental, ecological, and/or health damage." The plaintiff…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that Mott's Applesauce and Apple Juice products are mislabeled as "natural" because they contain traces of an insecticide. Yu v. Dr Pepper Snapple Grp. Inc., No. 18-6664 (N.D. Cal., San Jose Div., filed November 1, 2018). The plaintiff alleges that reasonable consumers would not expect to find acetamiprid, a synthetic chemical, in a product labeled as "natural." The complaint echoes a similar lawsuit filed by Beyond Pesticides in May 2017; an amended complaint in that lawsuit was filed in October 2018.

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that several ingredients in LaCroix sparkling water, which is marketed as “always 100% natural,” are “non-natural flavorings and synthetic compounds.” Rice v. Nat’l Beverage Corp., No. 2018-CH-12302 (Ill. Cir. Ct., Cook Cty., filed October 1, 2018). The plaintiff alleges that the ingredients are synthetic and therefore cause consumers harm. “For instance, limonene causes kidney toxicity and tumors, linalool is used as a cockroach insecticide; and linalool propionate is used to treat cancer,” the complaint asserts. The complaint garnered significant media coverage, including in CBS News, Los Angeles Times and USA Today. A nutritional scientist reportedly told CBS News, “These compounds are found in nature, mostly in fruit such as oranges, limes, strawberries, pineapples, bananas….so we consume these compounds every day if we eat any kind of fruit.” In addition, Snopes noted, “The chemicals identified in the lawsuit [] are both safe…

A New York federal court has dismissed allegations from a putative class action arguing that Pret A Manger Ltd. sold sandwich wraps with excess slack fill between the wrap's halves. Lau v. Pret A Manger (USA) Ltd., No. 17-5775 (S.D.N.Y., entered September 28, 2018). The court held that the plaintiffs lacked standing for an injunction despite their argument that they would consider purchasing the wraps in the future, finding "no sufficient basis for inferring that plaintiffs would ever seek to purchase a Pret wrap again as long as the status quo persists." The court also disagreed with the plaintiffs' argument that the slack fill in the wraps amounted to an intent to defraud consumers. "Specifically, plaintiffs state that less than half, or 45 percent, or Pret wraps surveyed contained slack-fill," the court noted. "Drawing all reasonable inferences in plaintiffs' favor, the Court finds that the facts are insufficient to nudge…

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) has submitted a citizen petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) challenging the use of labeling that asserts that products are free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). "[T]he 'Non-GMO' Project's butterfly logo and language on consumer foods and goods misleads and deceives consumers through false and misleading claims about foods, food ingredients and their characteristics related to health and safety," the petition argues. ITIF urges FDA "to prohibit the use of the term 'Non-GMO' on consumer foods and goods" because it allegedly constitutes "misbranding under the law." ITIF objects to the Non-GMO Project's distinction between "natural" foods and those made with GMOs. "The techniques used to bioengineer crops and livestock to produce foods were discovered as natural phenomena, and the enzymes and reagents involved are all extracted or derived from sources in nature. While in vitro bioengineering methods may produce 'combinations…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that Florida’s Natural Orange Juice is not “natural” because it is “highly processed” and contains pesticide residues. Axon v. Citrus World Inc., No. 18-4162 (E.D.N.Y., filed July 20, 2018). The complaint alleges that Citrus Inc. markets Florida’s Natural with illustrations on the packaging of “green leaves and orange blossoms as well as fresh-sliced oranges with juice visibly dripping from the fruit,” which conveys to consumers that “the juice is in fact natural and similar in result if consumers had squeezed the oranges themselves.” For alleged violations of New York’s consumer-protection statutes, the plaintiff seeks class certification, damages, restitution and attorney’s fees.

The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld an advocacy group's challenge to the use of the term “natural” by Pret A Manger but rejected a challenge to the company’s advertising claim that its breads are fresh-baked at each location. Ads on Pret A Manger’s website and Facebook page claimed that the chain makes “handmade natural food,” “avoiding the obscure chemicals, additives and preservatives common to so much of the ‘prepared’ and ‘fast food’ on the market.” Pret A Manger argued that the ads did not imply that it uses only natural ingredients or that its food is additive- and preservative-free; rather, the terminology was used to express the company's mission, which is partly to “avoid (as opposed to entirely eliminate) ‘obscure’ (as opposed to all)” chemicals. ASA upheld the challenge, determining that consumers were likely to interpret the claims to mean that the chain’s food was “natural” and free from…

The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint that a “100% Natural Ingredients” claim was misleading because the processing of the snack bar's ingredients did not comply with the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA's) criteria for use of the term “natural.” United Biscuits submitted a list of ingredients for its “Go Ahead Goodness” snack bars and asserted that all ingredients were made in a traditional manner. After ASA referred to FSA guidance, it determined that the refining of sunflower oil involves the use of chemical solvents and the process of creating reduced-fat cocoa powder involves the addition of potassium carbonate. Because the FSA guidance says neither the solvent extraction process nor the use of acid or alkali solutions is “in line with consumer expectations of ‘natural,’” ASA ruled that consumers would not consider the ingredients natural and that the advertisement was misleading.

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