Despite a tumultuous year, one thing stayed the same: plaintiffs’ class action attorneys continued to file plenty of lawsuits against manufacturers of consumer packaged goods (CPGs). Attorneys in Perkins Coie’s Food Litigation practice have defended false labeling cases across a broad range of products and industries. As our practice area has expanded, we have continued to pay close attention to the litigation environment for emerging trends, important developments in case law, and related regulatory guidance across CPG product categories.

On April 1, Perkins Coie’s Kristine Kruger and Carrie Akinaka will be presenting “Current Trends in Cosmetics Litigation” hosted by the American Bar Association. Find out more & register here.

Perkins Coie is pleased to announce that its fifth annual Food Litigation Year in Review, in coordination with the expansion of the firm’s practice, has been broadened and renamed the Food & Consumer Packaged Goods Litigation Year in Review. In coordination with this rebranding, we have also launched an infographic report that highlights key litigation outcomes, filing data, and industry trends. Despite a tumultuous year, one thing stayed the same: plaintiffs’ class action attorneys continued to file plenty of lawsuits against manufacturers of consumer packaged goods (CPGs). Continue Reading Food & Consumer Packaged Goods Litigation Year in Review 2020

Last week the Ninth Circuit concluded that a campaign for class certification brought by dog food purchasers was all bark and no bite.

In a memorandum disposition issued on December 9, 2020, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of class certification on predominance grounds, because of the varying nature of the labeling representations at issue, and because plaintiffs failed to present a viable damages model. Reitman v. Champion Petfoods USA, Inc., et al., No. 19-56467, 2020 WL 7238439 (9th Cir. Dec. 9, 2020). The panel also reaffirmed the principle that full refunds are not a recoverable form of damages for consumer goods that plaintiffs purchase and use—and thus receive some value from. Continue Reading Recent Ruling: Ninth Circuit Rules that Dog Food Purchasers’ Class Certification Campaign Has No Bite

On December 10, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held its Class Action Symposium. The symposium is as timely as ever. Food, beverage, and consumer product class actions are rocketing, with projected filings up 24 percent over 2019. The Northern District of California sees a substantial subset of these filings, earning it the nickname “the Food Court.” Continue Reading Industry Insights: Key Takeaways from Northern District of California’s Class Action Symposium

The global pandemic has affected not only how individuals work but also the way
companies supply food, how consumers shop, and how regulators try to alleviate
food shortages during the pandemic. Here are some of the biggest developments
thus far.

MASSIVE DISRUPTIONS IN THE FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN
During the pandemic, demand for food products in the retail sector has grown dramatically while use of food products destined for foodservice locations—such as hotels, universities, and restaurants—declined precipitously. Regulatory agencies have recognized the
challenges posed by the pandemic’s disruption of food supply channels and implemented temporary policies to support food businesses and consumers.

SECURING FOOD WORK ENVIRONMENTS
From agriculture to food processing and retail, much of the food sector and its workforce have been designated as essential during the pandemic. Food businesses are employers and have employment law obligations. Federal agencies, including the FDA and OSHA, have issued guidance to food businesses to develop and assess COVID-19 control plans to assist the industry in protecting employee health during the pandemic.

TEMPORARY REGULATORY FLEXIBILITY
Promoting the safe and efficient production of food during the pandemic has been a priority for both businesses and regulators. Among other things, the FDA and USDA have issued temporary policies allowing: many foods not labeled for retail sale to nonetheless be sold
directly to consumers; minor product formulation changes to adapt to supply shocks; and temporary relaxation of mandatory menu labeling requirements for chain restaurants.

INCREASED FOOD INSECURITY
Food insecurity rates have significantly increased during the pandemic. The USDA has expanded the use of SNAP (food stamp) benefits for online grocery purchases, which is likely to lead to permanent changes in how shoppers use such benefits.

LOOKING AHEAD: WHAT’S NEXT?
Regulators, businesses, and consumers are adjusting to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, and some of the changes implemented during this emergency period may lead to long-term shifts. Based in part on temporary policies during the crisis, the Consumer Brands Association has identified 10 policy areas ripe for change in a post-pandemic environment, such as expanding digital disclosure of product information and maintaining flexibility in food labeling to facilitate transfer of food products between the retail and foodservice channels.

On October 27, 2020, the New York State Department of Health issued proposed regulations regarding cannabinoid hemp products. These proposed regulations (available here) are open for public commentary until January 11, 2021. They would change how products containing hemp-derived cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD), are manufactured and sold in New York State. While the industry continues to await federal guidance from the FDA, these proposed regulations offer a glimpse into what actions the federal government might take with regard to CBD. Read the full article on our sister blog Cannabis Legal Highlights: The 411 on 420.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and limitations on court operations, food litigation filings continue to exceed numbers seen in prior years.  As our Food Litigation colleagues wrote in Law360 (sub. req.), food litigation filings are anticipated to surpass 2019’s record numbers by nearly 20%, even though general commercial litigation filings across all industries have decreased significantly. Continue Reading PC Food Litigation Index: Q3 2020