In 2011, Perkins Coie’s winning defense in Turek v. General Mills led to the first published federal appellate decision on the scope of the preemption defense under the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA). Subsequently, the preemption defense remains strong under the NLEA and other aspects of the federal Food Drug & Cosmetics Act (FDCA), including in cases involving supplements. See Dachauer v. NBTY, Inc. 913 F.3d 844 (9th Cir. 2019). That trend continues. On May 11, 2020, the Second Circuit held that the preemption defense extends to cosmetic products regulated under the FDCA as well.

Continue Reading Notable Ruling: Lessons for Food Litigation, Second Circuit Upholds Preemption Defense in Cosmetics Case

California courts remain a top forum for food litigation matters. So many matters are heard in the Northern District of California that it has gained a reputation as the “Food Court.” Now, the California Supreme Court has held that two of the state’s most widely used consumer protection statutes must be tried by a judge rather than a jury.

California’s False Advertising Law (“FAL”), codified at Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17500 et seq., and the Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”), codified at Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200, et seq., represent two of the most common vehicles for plaintiffs to bring suits alleging false product claims or purported misrepresentations on food labels. Continue Reading Notable Ruling: No Jury for False Advertising and UCL Suits, California Supreme Court Rules

Consumers’ response to COVID-19 has led to increased demand for personal protective equipment and other much-needed supplies to aid consumers and healthcare professionals in the fight against the disease.  Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is one such product, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending hand sanitizers when soap and water are not available.   The FDA has issued recent guidance intended to provide “flexibility” for manufacturers and increase the supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the marketplace.

Spurred on by the FDA’s guidance and similar guidance from other agencies, many manufacturers, such as fragrance companies and distilleries, are already pivoting production lines to make hand sanitizers or its component parts.  Yet, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are over-the-counter drugs regulated by FDA.  As manufacturers prepare to temporarily repurpose existing manufacturing facilities to enter the hand sanitizer market, they should keep several considerations in mind and maintain compliance with the FDA guidance documents.  Read more here.

On March 3, 2020, CLE International held the second day of Food Law: Navigating the Intersection Between Regulation of Litigation.  Now in its fifth year, the conference convenes individuals from the plaintiffs’ bar, academia, industry, and large law firms.

Perkins Coie’s David T. Biderman presented alongside attorneys from the plaintiff and defense bar on the panel “The Reasonable Consumer: An Interactive Debate.”  Panelists discussed recent trends in reasonable consumer decisions from the Second and Ninth Circuits and how these developments may affect the reasonable consumer doctrine moving forward.

Continue Reading Industry Insights: Day Two of the 5th Annual Food Law CLE Conference

On March 2, 2020, CLE International held the first day of Food Law: Navigating the Intersection Between Regulation of Litigation.  Now in its fifth year, the conference convenes individuals from the plaintiffs’ bar, academia, industry, and large law firms.

Today’s presentations included discussions of litigation case studies and regulatory issues facing food companies in today’s marketplace.  For example, in-house counsel detailed their perspectives on the FDA’s standards of identity, the agency’s definition of “healthy,” and other regulatory developments in the context of advances of food and nutritional science.  Specifically, general counsel for several food companies discussed issues with compliance with regulations finalized decades ago and ongoing efforts to update regulations using citizen petitions and other means to adapt to changes in food technology.  Other panels focused on advocacy strategies of non-governmental organizations through both regulation and litigation. Panelists from the Animal Legal Defense Fund and other public interest organizations discussed allegations of “humane-washing,” and an increase in lawsuits targeting animal welfare claims on consumer packaged goods (CPG) labeling.

Continue Reading Industry Insights: Day One of the 5th Annual Food Law CLE Conference

Perkins Coie is pleased to present its fourth annual Food Litigation Year in Review 2019, offering a summary of the past year’s key litigation outcomes, regulatory developments, and filing data. Using metrics from our proprietary database, developed by our food litigation team in order to track and understand trends in this area, 2019’s Year in Review again reports an increase in class action litigation, with a record-breaking 173 new lawsuits filed. The upward filing trends in the class action landscape are mirrored in other industries and in the prosecution of related claims: putative class actions against the pet food and dietary supplement industries were on the rise in 2019, as were Proposition 65 warning notices. Continue Reading Food Litigation Year in Review 2019

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) issued finalized amendments on January 14, 2020, to its regulations that will become effective on April 1, 2020. Per OEHHA in its Final Statement of Reasons, the amendments “clarify how intermediate parties in the chain of distribution can satisfy their obligation to provide a warning” under Proposition 65. OEHHA also revised the level of knowledge required to trigger warning obligations for retail sellers.

To read more, click here.

The Ninth Circuit delivered a win for food and beverage companies just in time for the new year in a published opinion in Becerra v. Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc., — F.3d —, 2019 WL 7287554 (9th Cir. Dec. 30, 2019).

Plaintiff in Becerra alleged that use of the word “diet” to describe Diet Dr Pepper is misleading because it suggests the product will help consumers lose weight. She relied on several scientific studies to allege that aspartame, the artificial sweetener in many diet sodas, “is likely to cause weight gain,” and “poses no benefit for weight loss.” She also relied on the results of a survey that, according to Plaintiff, showed the majority of soft-drink consumers believe “diet” soft drinks will help them lose or maintain their weight. After several rounds of motion to dismiss briefing, the district court dismissed plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice, and plaintiff appealed.

Continue Reading Notable Ruling: Reasonable Consumers Not Misled by “Diet” Soft Drinks

On the heels of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent declarations regarding the safety of products containing cannabidiol (CBD), several companies have been hit with class action lawsuits alleging that that the company’s CBD-containing products are mislabeled and falsely advertised in violation of state law. Further class action litigation is expected given the language of the FDA’s recent pronouncements and the widespread availability of CBD-containing products. Companies should prepare for the possibility of litigation and actively seek to mitigate the risks of unwanted attention by FDA or putative class action plaintiffs.  

Read More

On October 7, 2019, the California Chamber of Commerce (“CalChamber”) filed a lawsuit against California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The lawsuit seeks to enjoin the Attorney General and private bounty hunter plaintiffs from enforcing Proposition 65 regulations relating to acrylamide in food.

Acrylamide is a chemical that forms in nearly all starchy plant-based foods that have undergone high-temperature cooking, including French fries, coffee, cereals, crackers, breads, tortilla chips, dried fruits and many other foods. Acrylamide has been present in food as long as humans have been cooking. The chemical forms from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally present in food—it is not intentionally added to foods, nor does it come from food packaging or the environment. Continue Reading Industry Insights: California Chamber of Commerce Challenges Proposition 65 Acrylamide Warning for Foods