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A complaint against the maker of Tabatchnick soups that alleged the company’s products could not be called “natural” because they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has been voluntarily dismissed. Ramsaran v. Tabatchnick Fine Foods, Inc., No. 17-­60794 (S.D. Fla., dismissed June 9, 2017). The plaintiff had argued that he relied on the company’s “all natural” representations when he bought the company’s prepackaged soups but later learned that they contain GMO soy, corn or canola. Additional details appear in Issue 632 of this Update.   Issue 638

A California federal court has decertified a class and granted partial summary judgment in an action alleging Kraft Foods Group falsely advertised its fat­-free cheddar cheese as “natural.” Morales v. Kraft Foods Grp., No. 14-­4387 (C.D. Cal, order entered June 9, 2017). Details on previous decisions in the case appear in Issues 570 and 625 of this Update. The court first granted summary judgment for Kraft as to restitution because the plaintiffs failed to provide sufficient evidence about their potential willingness to pay a premium based on the “natural cheese” label and therefore could not establish a basis for calculating restitution for the class. Turning to the issue of whether the consumers' belief that the cheese was "natural" was material to their purchasing decisions, the court determined that the plaintiffs' expert testimony created a triable issue of fact that could not be dismissed during the summary-­judgment phase. Denying that portion…

A consumer has filed a proposed class action alleging Sargento Foods misleadingly advertises its cheese products as “natural” despite containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or animal growth hormones. Stanton v. Sargento Foods, Inc., No. 17­-2881 (N.D. Cal., filed May 19, 2017). The plaintiff asserts that the cows providing milk for the production of Sargento cheeses are fed GMO corn and soybeans as well as a growth hormone. Alleging violations of state consumer­ protection acts and breach of warranty laws, the plaintiff seeks class certification, damages, an injunction and attorney’s fees.   Issue 636

Consumer­ advocacy group Beyond Pesticides has filed suit against the maker of Mott’s applesauce products, alleging the term “natural” on its labels misleads consumers because the products contain the pesticide acetamiprid. Beyond Pesticides v. Dr Pepper Snapple Grp., No. 2017 CA 003156 B (D.C. Super. Ct., filed May 5, 2017). The plaintiff asserts that the “natural” and “All Natural Ingredients” labeling on several varieties of Mott’s applesauce mislead consumers who would not expect the products to contain a “synthetic, unnatural chemical.” Claiming violations of the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, the plaintiff seeks injunctive and equitable relief—including the establishment of a “community fund” to raise consumer awareness of acetamiprid—and attorney’s fees.   Issue 634

A Florida plaintiff has filed a putative class action against the maker of Tabatchnick soups, alleging its products cannot be called “natural” because they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Ramsaran v. Tabatchnick Fine Foods, Inc., No. 17­60794 (S.D. Fla., filed April 24, 2017). The complaint asserts that 19 Tabatchnick soups labeled or advertised as “all natural,” containing “highest quality, natural ingredients,” actually contain GMO soy, corn, canola or their derivatives. The plaintiff alleges that GMOs, which have “undergone sophisticated bioengineering,” cannot be described as “minimally processed” or natural and are therefore artificial. For alleged violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, negligent misrepresentation and breach of express and implied warranties, the plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment, class certification, injunctive relief, damages and attorney’s fees.   Issue 632

California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has announced that glyphosate will be listed under the state's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop. 65). In September 2015, OEHHA announced its findings on the carcinogenicity of glyphosate, a chemical used in pesticides that has been targeted in several putative class actions challenging whether a product can be "natural" if its ingredients retain some glyphosate residue from the growing process. The effective date of listing and the proposed safe harbor level will be determined after a California appeals court rules on a stay.   Issue 630

A consumer has filed a putative class action against the manufacturers of Rachael Ray’s dog foods, alleging that the products are labeled as “natural” despite containing artificial or synthetic chemicals. Grimm v. APN, Inc., No. 17­-0356 (C.D. Cal., filed February 28, 2017). The plaintiff claims that she only bought the dog foods, sold under the Nutrish , Dish, Zero Grain and Just 6 labels, because they were labeled as natural and free of preservatives and would have purchased other products had she known the foods contained “artificial preservatives and unnatural ingredients.” The plaintiff alleges the defendant manufacturers “capitalized” on consumer preferences for natural food products. The product labels indicate that the dog foods contain L-­ascorbyl­-2­ polyphosphate, menadione sodium bisulphate complex, thiamine mononitrate, and caramel color. For alleged negligent representation, violations of California’s Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law and Unfair Competition Law, breach of warranties and quasi­-contract, the plaintiff is…

The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint about the “About Us” section of its website for Appy Food & Drinks, which contained a claim that all of the advertiser’s juice drinks were “100% natural” despite containing calcium lactate and glucose-­fructose syrup. Appy Foods asserted that calcium lactate is a salt obtained through a natural fermentation process and occurs naturally in dairy products, and glucose-fructose syrup is obtained through hydrolysis of cornstarch, also a natural process. The watchdog agency reviewed Appy’s production processes and found that Appy did not provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the calcium lactate production process was “natural,” and further that the glucose­-fructose syrup was produced by the addition of an enzyme isomerase to the cornstarch, a “non-­traditional” treatment falling outside the definition of “natural” in the Food Standards Agency guidelines. Because the Appy juice drinks were not “single foods,” the ASA decided that the…

The plaintiff in a purported class action asserting that Herr Foods Inc. mislabels its packaged snacks as “natural” has filed a motion to disqualify defense counsel, alleging the attorney repeatedly made “extortionate threats” and committed professional misconduct. Whitaker v. Herr Foods, Inc., No. 16-2017 (E.D. Penn., motion filed December 14, 2016). The plaintiff’s motion follows Herr Foods’ motion for summary judgment, which asserted that the plaintiff could not possibly have purchased the products he claimed and that he is “a wholly inadequate lead plaintiff” because of “his faulty memory,” “his lengthy history of felony convictions involving theft and dishonesty and his potential mental health problems.” The plaintiff’s motion for disqualification alleges the defense attorney told the plaintiff that Herr Foods directed him to file for sanctions and refer the plaintiff to the district attorney’s office for an attempted criminal extortion investigation. “If you would like to talk about an agreement…

A consumer has filed a projected class action alleging Newman’s Own, Inc. misleadingly markets its pasta sauce products as natural despite containing citric acid. Wong v. Newman’s Own, Inc., No. 16-6690 (E.D.N.Y., filed November 30, 2016). The complaint asserts the company “deceptively used the term ‘natural’ to describe a product containing ingredients that have been either extensively chemically processed or fundamentally altered from their natural state and thus cannot be considered ‘minimally processed.’” The plaintiff admits “there is not an exacting definition of ‘natural’ in reference to food,” but cites the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a decision from the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2005 Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book to support his definition. For alleged violations of New York’s consumer-protection statutes, the plaintiff seeks class certification, restitution, damages, an injunction and attorney’s fees.   Issue 625

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