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Two consumers have filed a putative class action alleging that Beverage Marketing USA Inc. markets its AriZona iced green tea products as containing “ginseng for energy” despite lacking “any detectible amounts of ginseng, if indeed it contains any ginseng at all.” Niles v. Beverage Marketing USA Inc., No. 19-1902 (E.D.N.Y., filed April 2, 2019). The complaint asserts that ginseng demand “has skyrocketed while supply has dwindled, causing prices to surge to above $1,000 per pound. Ginseng is so coveted in the marketplace that certain species of ginseng have been harvested to the edge of extinction.” The plaintiffs allege that they “retained two respected food laboratories to conduct three tests of the Product for ginsenosides,” “the main chemical constituent of ginseng,” and apparently found that “none of the three tests were able to detect any amount of ginsenosides in the Product.” Additional tests allegedly showed that AriZona’s competitors’ products did contain…

AriZona Beverages LLC faces a putative class action alleging it misleads consumers by representing the sugar and calorie content of its beverages based on a serving size of eight ounces while its product is sold in 16-ounce cans. Neville v. AriZona Beverages USA LLC, No. 18-5040 (E.D.N.Y., filed September 6, 2018). The complaint asserts that AriZona “engaged in unfair competition to the detriment of consumers by refusing to follow the industry standard which is based upon the size of a can or bottle that a consumer would usually drink in one sitting.” Alleging violations of several state consumer-protection statutes and breach of express warranty, the plaintiff seeks class certification, damages, injunctive or declaratory relief, restitution and attorney’s fees.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has affirmed summary judgment dismissing a putative class action alleging that Twinings North America Inc.'s teas contained fewer antioxidants than claimed on product labels, holding the plaintiff had failed to establish standing. Lanovaz v. Twinings N. Am. Inc., No. 16-16628 (9th Cir., entered June 6, 2018). The court focused on the plaintiff's statement that she would not purchase Twinings tea again even if the company changed the allegedly misleading labels. To establish standing, a plaintiff must show an imminent or actual threat of future harm, the court held, and the plaintiff’s “some day intention” of professed intent, “without any description of concrete plans, or indeed even any specification of when that some day will be—do[es] not support a finding of the ‘actual or imminent’ injury.”

The maker of Kombucha Dog beverages has filed lawsuits against Trader Joe’s Co. and other kombucha producers alleging the companies misrepresent the amount of alcohol and sugar in their products and violate federal and state laws regulating the sale of alcohol beverages. Tortilla Factory, LLC v. Trader Joe’s Co., No. 18-2977; Tortilla Factory, LLC v. Better Booch, LLC, No. 18-2980; Tortilla Factory, LLC v. Makana Beverages, Inc., No. 18-2981; and Tortilla Factory, LLC v. Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha, LLC, No. 18-2984 (C.D. Cal., filed April 9, 2018). According to Tortilla Factory's complaints, kombucha's post-bottling fermentation can cause it to develop an alcohol content of 0.5 percent or more by volume, subjecting it to regulation under federal law, including Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau regulations that govern production, labeling and distribution. The complaints assert that independent testing revealed that the defendants' products contain between 1.0 and 2.7 percent alcohol but…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that Brew Dr. Kombucha misleadingly advertises its products as containing “billions” of probiotic bacteria. Bazer v. Brew Dr. Kombucha, No. 2018-2943 (Ill. Chancery Ct., Cook Cty., filed March 5, 2018). The plaintiff asserts that he bought several bottles of kombucha in different flavors because he heard about the benefits of the beverage and the probiotic bacteria it purportedly contains. According to the complaint, tests showed that the product contained about 50,000 bacterial colonies rather than the "billions" advertised on the bottle’s label. Claiming violations of consumer-protection laws, breach of warranties and unjust enrichment, the plaintiff seeks class certification, disgorgement and attorney’s fees.

A plaintiff has filed a putative false advertising class action alleging that East West Tea Co.'s kombucha tea bags cannot feasibly be kombucha, which is a fermented product with live cultures. Cohen v. East West Tea Co., LLC, No. 17-2339 (S.D. Cal., filed November 17, 2017). The plaintiff asserts that she bought the tea product because it was labeled “organic kombucha” and expected the product to provide the health benefits of probiotic bacteria found in kombucha. The complaint argues that because kombucha is composed of fermented steeped tea, live yeast and bacterial organisms, it cannot be “dried and stuffed into a tea bag.” In addition, the complaint asserts that the company’s pasteurization process destroys the live organisms that provide kombucha’s purported health benefits. Claiming violations of California’s consumer-protection statutes and breach of express warranty, the plaintiff seeks class certification, injunctive relief, damages, corrective advertising and attorney’s fees.

A federal court in California has given preliminary approval to a proposed $8.25-­million settlement of a class action claiming that kombucha tea products manufactured by Millennium Products, Inc. and sold at Whole Foods were mislabeled. Retta v. Millennium Products, No. 15-­1801 (C.D. Cal., order entered January 31, 2017). The plaintiffs claimed that the kombucha labels (i) used the term “antioxidant” when the product contained none; (ii) used the term “non­-alcoholic” when the fermented tea product allegedly contained alcohol in excess of the amount permitted for non­alcoholic beverages; and (iii) understated the amount of sugar in the product. In its order, the court granted class certification and approved monetary and injunctive relief, including Millennium’s agreements to (i) add warning labels that the product contains alcohol and must be refrigerated because it is under pressure; (ii) conduct regular sample testing to ensure the accuracy of the products’ sugar content; and (iii) adopt…

A consumer has filed a projected class action against Tradewinds Beverage Co. alleging the company’s iced tea products are misleadingly labeled as natural despite containing caramel color. Martin v. Tradewinds Beverage Co., No. 16-9249 (C.D. Cal., filed December 14, 2016). The plaintiff argues that she regularly paid a premium for Tradewinds Iced Tea products believing them to be made of all-natural ingredients. For alleged violations of California’s consumer-protection statutes, she seeks a corrective advertising campaign, destruction of all misleading advertising materials, restitution, damages and attorney’s fees.   Issue 626

Ganeden Biotech Inc. has filed a lawsuit against American Brewing Co., Inc. and its 2015 acquisition, B&R Liquid Adventure, alleging the companies infringe its patents on a particular strain of probiotic bacteria through the marketing and sale of their búcha® beverage. Ganeden Biotech, Inc. v. Am. Brewing Co., Inc., No. 16-0876 (N.D. Ohio, filed April 13, 2016). Ganeden asserts that it holds a patent on a specific GBI-30 strain of Bacillus coagulans as used in tea and another patent on the strain as used in all other products. B&R began selling búcha® in 2013 and lists the GBI-30 strain as an ingredient, according to the complaint. “Because Ganeden holds a patent on GBI-30 and is the legitimate source of GBI-30, Ganeden believes that Defendants’ products likely contained Bacillus coagulans (which Defendants could have obtained elsewhere) but not always the GBI-30 strain as labeled,” the biotech company argues. For allegations of patent infringement and unfair…

A California federal court has refused to certify a class of consumers alleging that R.C. Bigelow Inc. misled them by over-representing the amount of antioxidants contained in its green tea. Khasin v. R.C. Bigelow, Inc., No. 12-2204 (N.D. Cal., order entered March 29, 2016). The court previously refused to allow the plaintiff to seek financial records to calculate damages. Additional details appear in Issue 575 of this Update. In its certification analysis, the court found fault with the plaintiff’s three suggested damages models: (i) a restitution calculation, (ii) statutory damages or (iii) a nominal alternative. The plaintiff argued that the restitution calculation model should amount to payments of the full purchase price of the product because the tea is allegedly “legally worthless” for failing to meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration requirements on antioxidant nutrient claims. The court refused to find that consumers received no benefit from drinking the tea, “in…

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