A New York consumer has filed a putative class action against Victoria
Fine Foods alleging the company falsely advertises its vodka sauce as “all
natural” and free of preservatives despite containing citric acid. Shmidt
v. Victoria Fine Foods, No. 16-0230 (E.D.N.Y., filed January 15, 2016).
The complaint asserts that Victoria “sought to capitalize on consumers’
preference for natural products and the association between such products
and a wholesome way of life.”

The plaintiff argues that the primary jurisdiction doctrine does not apply
because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “has repeatedly
declined to adopt formal rule-making that would define the word
‘natural,” although she asserts that FDA “has loosely defined the term
‘natural’ as a product that ‘does not contain added color, artificial flavors,
or synthetic substances.’” The complaint also cites the U.S. Department
of Agriculture’s Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book, “which states
that the term ‘natural’ may be used on labeling for products that contain
processed ingredients only where such ingredients are subjected to
‘minimal’ processing and that relatively severe processes, e.g., solvent
extraction, acid hydrolysis and chemical bleaching would clearly be
considered more than minimal processing.” For alleged violations of New
York consumer-protection statutes as well as negligent misrepresentation,
unjust enrichment and breach of warranties, the plaintiff seeks class
certification, restitution, damages, an injunction and attorney’s fees.


Issue 593

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.