Each month we will be sharing the PC Food Litigation Index, a summary of latest class action filings in the food and beverage industry. This data is compiled by Perkins Coie based on a review of dockets from courts nationwide.

August 2018 continued this year’s trend of higher monthly filings than in 2017. False advertising, slack-fill and health maintenance claims were filed this month. Some claims were filed in batches. For instance, two class action suits were filed in the Central District of California in two days, Garcia v. Himalayasat-Sustainable Sourcing, LLC, et al. and Garcia v. Frontier Natural Products Coop., et al., alleging that salt is a mineral and not an agricultural product so therefore salt cannot be identified as organic. Thus, Erika Garcia claims, the defendants’ mislabeling falsely and deceptively induced her to purchase the product based on misrepresentations.

In addition, the Center for Food Safety filed a slew of claims in late August against multiple grocery chains claiming the chains sold peanut and almond butter products that contain acrylamide, a substance “known to the state of California to cause cancer,” and despite exposing its customers to the chemical, the chains fail to provide the required Proposition 65 warning.  These filings continued into the month of September.


Continue Reading PC Food Litigation Index: August 2018

Last week, the California Court of Appeal held that a plaintiff’s suit seeking to require Proposition 65 acrylamide based cancer warnings on 59 popular breakfast cereals was pre-empted by federal nutrition policies aimed at encouraging Americans to consume more whole grains and by FDA letters stating that any warnings should be deferred given the uncertain science on the risks to humans of acrylamide in food. This conflict pre-emption ruling should help convince courts in other contexts that state warning requirements should defer to more carefully articulated federal policies.

Acrylamide, which forms in many foods during high-temperature cooking (e.g., frying, roasting, baking), has been a Proposition 65 listed substance since 1990, though its presence in food was not discovered until 2002. As the FDA has stated, there is much uncertainty if the levels of acrylamide in food pose any risk to humans.
Continue Reading Notable Ruling: Precedent-Setting Proposition 65 Pre-emption Decision Involving Breakfast Cereal

Earlier this week, attorneys in the Perkins Coie Food Litigation team joined top in-house counsel, defense attorneys and regulatory experts at the GMA Legal Conference which took place in New Orleans, LA.  The conference covered a wide array of important and timely legal issues, with an emphasis on protecting your brands from litigation risks and

Organic Consumers Association v. R.C. Bigelow, Inc., No. 17CA8375 (D.C. Super. Ct.): Plaintiff asserts a cause of action for violation of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act alleging that defendant deceptively labeled, marketed and sold its Bigelow’s Green Tea as “All Natural” and “Natural,” when in fact the product contains the synthetic

Miao v. Iovate Health Sciences U.S.A. Inc., No. 1:17-cv-09427 (S.D.N.Y.): Putative slack-fill class action asserting violations of New York’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and False Advertising provisions of the GBL, and raising a claim for common law fraud. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant’s containers of Herbal Zen Nutrition plant-based protein powder are 40% slack-filled.
Continue Reading New Filings – December 15, 2017

Hilel v. Gilda Industries Inc., No. CACE-17-019821 (Fl. Circuit Ct. – Broward Cnty.): Putative class action alleging violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and raising claims for negligent misrepresentation, breach of express warranty, and unjust enrichment. Plaintiff alleges Defendant misrepresented that its cracker products are “all natural,” when the crackers actually contain several artificial, synthetic and/or genetically modified ingredients including bleached wheat, hydrogenated soybean oil and “GMO soy.”
Continue Reading New Filings – November 15, 2017