New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has reportedly signed a law banning single-use plastic and paper bags and imposing limits on other food containers and straws. Effective May 2022, the law will ban the use of polystyrene food and drink containers, and single-use plastic straws may only be provided upon request beginning in November 2021. Some products will be exempt until 2024, including meat and fish trays, food prepackaged in polystyrene by the manufacturer, polystyrene soda spoons used for thick drinks and portion cups for foods requiring a lid.
A group of consumers has filed a putative class action asserting that Nestle USA Inc. and Ferrara Candy Co.’s opaque candy boxes contain too much slack fill. Iglesia v. Nestle USA Inc., No. 20-5971 (D.N.J., filed May 15, 2020). The complaint alleges that Ferrara and Nestle “pioneered a scheme to deceptively sell candy in oversized, opaque boxes that do not reasonably inform consumers that they are half empty. Defendants’ ‘slack-fill’ scam dupes unsuspecting consumers across America to pay for empty space at premium prices.” The complaint also features several photos of boxes with portions cut away, purportedly showing the amount of empty space in an unopened package. For alleged violations of New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, North Carolina, Texas and Florida consumer-protection statutes, the plaintiffs seek an injunction, restitution, damages and attorney’s fees.
A New York federal court has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that BEF Foods Inc. misleadingly marketed its Bob Evans mashed potatoes as containing butter. Sarr v. BEF Foods, No. 18-6409 (E.D.N.Y., entered February 13, 2020). The lawsuit alleged that the packaging promised "real butter" and "fresh potatoes" despite containing vegetable oil and preservatives. The court found that the product's ingredient list disclosed that the mashed potatoes contained both vegetable oil and butter, with butter as the more predominant ingredient. The court was also unpersuaded on the "fresh potatoes" point. "No reasonable consumer would conclude that the phrases 'Made with Fresh Potatoes' and 'Made with 100% Fresh Potatoes'  imply that the finished Mashed Potatoes product itself was 'just prepared' or lacking preservatives," the court held. "BEF's representations unambiguously mean that the potatoes used as an ingredient in the Mashed Potatoes were fresh when so incorporated."
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) has introduced legislation that would "ban the use of toxic perfluorinated compounds (PFAS) in food containers and cookware." The Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to deem PFAS chemicals in food containers as unsafe by 2022. “We already know the double cheeseburger and fries are not the most healthy meal, but no one suspects the dangerous chemicals seeping into your food from the wrapper or food containers," Dingell is quoted as saying in a press release. "This important legislation ensures unsafe, hazardous chemicals are not allowed near the food we eat.”
The National Toxicology Program, part of the Public Health Service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has issued for peer review a draft research report of a two-year study of the effects of bisphenol A (BPA) on rats. According to a press release issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the study was conducted by senior scientists at FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research as part of a collaborative effort by FDA and the National Institutes of Health to investigate concerns about possible developmental effects of relatively low exposure to BPA. FDA reports that it found “minimal effects” of BPA on rats but identified areas that “may merit further research, such as the increase in occurrence of mammary gland tumors at one of the five doses.” FDA also noted that its “comprehensive review” of the report supports the agency’s determination that currently authorized uses…
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has sent a letter to Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), calling for an investigation into the use of phthalates in food and fast-food packaging. Citing a Journal of American Medicine Association Pediatrics report, Schumer argues that the health risks of phthalates are known but FDA has done little to protect the public. “Consumers are not giving these everyday packaging products a second thought,” Schumer said in a July 30, 2017, press release. “They assume they are safe—and they should be, especially when their reach extends to millions upon millions of Americans. So, the FDA must take my order for a fast food packaging investigation very seriously and take this long-sitting health data off the backburner.” Issue 643
Sugarfina, maker of “luxury boutique” candies, has filed a trademark, copyright, patent and trade dress infringement suit against Sweet Pete’s alleging the competitor relied “heavily on several design elements of Sugarfina’s distinctive packaging and marketing” of Cuba Libre®, Peach Bellini®, Fruttini, Candy Cube, Candy Concierge and Candy Bento Box® products. Sugarfina v. Sweet Pete’s, No. 17-4456 (C.D. Cal., filed June 15, 2017). Sugarfina asserts that Sweet Pete’s copied the names, “size, shape, color or color combinations, texture, graphics and sales techniques” of all six named product lines that Sugarfina packages in “museum-quality Lucite.” Sugarfina further argues that Sweet Pete’s was “a failing business prior to its radical transformation into a Sugarfina copycat.” The plaintiff seeks an injunction, treble damages, corrective advertising and attorney’s fees. Issue 639
A plaintiff’s “cursory, formulaic recitation” of her purchase of Jelly Belly Candy Co.'s Sport Beans did not include enough factual allegations to establish a claim for relief, a California federal court has ruled. Gomez v. Jelly Belly Candy Co., No. 17-0575 (C.D. Cal., order entered June 8, 2017). The plaintiff had alleged the candy maker’s use of the term “evaporated cane juice” (ECJ) on the packaging misled her about the product's sugar content. Additional details on the complaint appear in Issue 629 of this Update. “Absent from the Complaint are any factual allegations concerning the circumstances of Gomez’s purchase of the product, how she intended to use the product, whether she in fact expected a sugar-free product, whether she thought ‘evaporated cane juice’ was juice as opposed to sugar, and whether she consumed the product,” the court said, granting Jelly Belly's motion to dismiss. However, the court ruled that Gomez…
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) denied a citizen petition to ban the use of perchlorates in dry food packaging while revoking regulations permitting the use of potassium perchlorate in food-container seals, saying industry makers no longer use the chemical. FDA said it will amend food additive regulations allowing the use of potassium perchlorate as a component in sealing gaskets for food containers. Trade groups petitioned for the change, arguing that plastics manufacturers have stopped using the compound. The following day, FDA rejected a petition from public interest groups seeking to ban use of potassium perchlorate and sodium perchlorate monohydrate in dry food packaging and requesting that the agency issue new regulations prohibiting use of perchlorates in packaging. Neither request was “the proper subject of a food additive petition,” the agency stated, but the groups could petition to revoke or reevaluate the Threshold of Regulation exemption. Issue 633
Kraft Heinz Foods faces a trade-secret suit alleging it distributed documents containing confidential and proprietary drawings and specifications for plastic caps created by one of its long-time vendors. AptarGroup, Inc. v. Kraft Heinz Foods Co., No. 17521 (W.D. Pa., filed April 21, 2017). AptarGroup argues that Kraft distributed engineering and customer drawings providing detailed specifications for its bottle cap and closure designs documents after removing Aptar’s logos and confidentiality warnings. Aptar also asserts that among other disclosures, Kraft released specifications for its “breakthrough” snap-top cap used for Heinz’ inverted, top-down ketchup bottles. The complaint alleges that previous disclosures have included only “one or two ornamental designs, with no detailed specifications, and that Aptar notified Kraft of their breach of contract and asked Kraft to demand the return of the confidential information from all recipients. Claiming trade secret misappropriation and breach of contract, Aptar seeks a temporary restraining order, injunctive relief,…