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A federal court in Texas has granted partial summary judgment to WFM Private Label L.P., a subsidiary of Whole Foods Market Inc., in a contract dispute related to 365 Everyday Value Greek yogurt's sugar content. WFM Private Label, L.P., v. 1048547 Ontario Inc., No. 14-1013 (W.D. Tex., entered June 18, 2018). Whole Foods hired Skotidakis Goat Farm (SGF) to supply Greek yogurt products for the 365 Everyday Value brand, and SGF provided the company with nutritional information. SGF later received additional lab results indicating a higher sugar content than previous testing indicated, but it did not notify Whole Foods of the new results until a few days before Consumer Reports published an article alleging that the company's plain yogurt contained five times the sugar content listed on the product labeling. Eleven putative class actions were filed against Whole Foods; according to the vendor agreement, SGF had an obligation to indemnify Whole Foods in the lawsuits.…

A New York federal court has dismissed a false labeling suit against Dannon Co., finding "no legal support for the idea that a cow that eats [genetically modified organism (GMO)] feed or is subjected to hormones or various animal husbandry practices produces ‘unnatural’ products.” Podpeskar v. Dannon Co. Inc., No. 16-8478 (S.D.N.Y., entered December 3, 2017). The proposed class action alleged that Dannon falsely labeled 12 varieties of yogurt products as “natural” despite being produced with milk from cows raised on GMO feed. The court noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing regulatory standards for the use of "natural,” but federal law does not require the products of animals fed GMOs must be labeled as containing GMOs. The plaintiff’s arguments were conclusory and “based on her own feelings,” the court noted, and the complaint did not allege that ­any ingredient used in the product is unnatural.

Infowars founder Alex Jones has reportedly agreed to retract his statements concerning Chobani LLC's production facility in Twin Falls, Idaho, after Chobani filed a defamation lawsuit. Jones' website published a video asserting that Chobani's Idaho facility, which employs a number of refugees, was linked to a crime and a rise in incidents of tuberculosis. "During the week of April 10, 2017, certain statements were made on the Infowars Twitter feed and YouTube channel regarding Chobani LLC that I now understand to be wrong. The tweets and video have now been retracted, and will not be re­posted,” Jones reportedly said. “On behalf of Infowars, I regret that we mischaracterized Chobani, its employees and the people of Twin Falls, Idaho, the way we did." Additional details on the lawsuit appear in Issue 632 of this Update. See Los Angeles Times, May 17, 2017.   Issue 635

Chobani LLC has reportedly filed a libel suit against Alex Jones, radio host and founder of Infowars, alleging Jones defamed the company with a report that its Idaho factory was linked to a child sexual assault case and a rise in incidents of tuberculosis. Chobani LLC v. Jones, No. 42­17­1659 (Idaho 5th Jud. D. Ct., filed April 24, 2017). Jones’ Infowars video apparently asserted that Chobani's policy of hiring refugees caused several negative effects in Twin Falls, Idaho, including a sexual assault case involving refugee minors. See Bloomberg and New York Times, April 25, 2017.   Issue 632

A California federal court has dismissed a lawsuit against Yakult USA at the request of the plaintiff following two denials of class certification and standing for an injunction. Torrent v. Yakult USA Inc., No. 15-0124 (C.D. Cal., S. Div., order entered August 23, 2016). Yakult argued that the court should refuse to grant the dismissal because the plaintiff was seeking to ensure appellate jurisdiction, but the court rejected that logic. “It would be inappropriate for this Court to refuse Plaintiff’s voluntary dismissal with prejudice to attempt to force Plaintiff’s continued litigation of these claims and preclude [appellate] review,” the court found. The plaintiff previously attempted to obtain standing for an injunction by purchasing Yakult again after the court told him he would be unlikely to purchase the product in the future because he believed the healthful claims of the product to be untrue. Details about the denials of certification and…

The National Milk Producers Federation, International Dairy Foods Association and U.S. Dairy Export Council have authored a May 9, 2016, letter to President Barack Obama (D), asking the White House to reject proposed World Health Organization (WHO) guidance that “would discourage consumption of nutritious dairy products by young children.” Slated for presentation at the 69th World Health Assembly on May 23-28, 2016, the draft guidelines seek to end the promotion of breast-milk substitutes, including all milk and fortified soy milk, intended for consumption by children younger than age 3. Among other things, the proposal not only places restrictions on the marketing of foods for infants and young children, but also stipulates that “the messages used to promote foods for infants and young children should support optimal feeding and inappropriate messages should not be included.” The guidelines specifically preclude the indirect crosspromotion of breast-milk substitutes with other food products, as well…

A New York federal court has rejected Chobani, LLC’s motion for reconsideration of a preliminary injunction preventing the company from claiming in its advertising that competitor Dannon Co.’s yogurt products contain chlorine and are thereby unhealthy, unsafe and inferior to Chobani yogurt. Chobani, LLC v. Dannon Co., Inc., No. 16-0030 (N.D.N.Y., order entered April 22, 2016). Chobani’s marketing campaign displayed an image of a swimming pool—which is cleaned with calcium hypochlorite, a substance colloquially referred to as “chlorine”—while asserting that Dannon Light & Fit® yogurt contained chlorine, one of four chemical elements that constitute sweetener sucralose. Additional details about the complaint appear in Issue 590 of this Update. According to the court, Chobani argued that the “limitations place it at a competitive disadvantage because it completely precludes usage of the phrase ‘no bad stuff’ in relation to Dannon products regardless of whether or not a safety message is at issue.…

A California federal court has again denied certification in a putative consumer class action challenging Yakult USA’s probiotic yogurt product for allegedly false digestive-health claims. Torrent v. Yakult USA, Inc., No. 15-0124 (C.D. Cal., S. Div., order entered March 7, 2016). Additional information about the previous denial of certification appears in Issue 589 of this Update. In its prior denial, the court found the plaintiff was unlikely to purchase the product again, thus he lacked standing to pursue an injunction. Following this ruling, the plaintiff purchased Yakult at a store, then refiled his motion for class certification along with a sworn declaration that “I intend to buy Yakult in California in the future.” The court found the refiled motion to be “an effort to manufacture standing in direct response to this Court’s prior ruling.” Allowing the plaintiff “to seek injunctive relief based on his recently-expressed intention to purchase Yakult in the…

A Texas federal court has dismissed multidistrict litigation (MDL) alleging that Whole Foods Market Inc. lists incorrect amounts of sugar on its yogurt labels, concluding the Consumer Reports data relied on by the plaintiffs did not meet federal standards. In re Whole Foods Mkt. Inc. Greek Yogurt Mktg. & Sales Practices Litig., MDL No. 2588 (W.D. Tex., Austin Div., order entered February 16, 2016). The consumers claimed Whole Foods’ store-brand yogurt contains 11.4 grams of sugar per serving, while the listed sugar content is 2 grams. Details about some of the 11 consolidated lawsuits appear in Issues 533 and 534 of this Update. Whole Foods argued that the consumers’ claims were preempted by the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) because the scientific testing techniques used by Consumer Reports failed to comply with the testing methodology determined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The court agreed, noting that…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has extended from February 16 to February 22, 2016, the comment period regarding requirements for fermented and hydrolyzed foods or those containing fermented or hydrolyzed ingredients that carry the “gluten-free” claim. The proposed rule would apply to foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, pickles, cheese, green olives, vinegar, and FDA-regulated beers. Intended to address the uncertainty of interpreting test methods in terms of intact gluten, the finalized rule would mandate manufacturers to maintain records demonstrating: (i) “the food meets the requirements of the gluten-free labeling final rule prior to fermentation or hydrolysis”; (ii) “the manufacturer has adequately evaluated its process for any potential gluten cross-contact”; and (iii) “where a potential for gluten cross-contact has been identified, the manufacturer has implemented measures to prevent the introduction of gluten into the food during the manufacturing process.” The agency also intends to evaluate the compliance of distilled…

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