The food and beverage industry is facing an unprecedented number of threats from class action cases alleging misleading labeling and advertising. Approximately two new lawsuits against manufacturers, distributors and retailers were filed each week in 2017! In addition, dozens more food and beverage industry members received demand letters that threatened the commencement of such cases and demanded the payment of monetary damages.
Popular claims regarding ingredient content, or processing methods such as "natural," "organic," "ethically sourced" or "GMO free," are often targets for class actions. In the past year, plaintiff attorneys have developed new theories of liability and expanded their cases to related matters such as non-functional slack-fill in standard packaging.
Avoiding the class action trap, responding to demand letters from plaintiff attorneys, and defending such cases in court requires navigating the boundaries of state and federal consumer protection laws. Compliance with FDA regulations is no longer an absolute defense.
In the past week alone, we at the Food Institute have reported on several class action lawsuits against food companies. A suit seeking class action status was filed against Danone North American and WhiteWave Foods Co, alleging the company deceptively advertised Horizon Organic Milk plus DHA Omega-3 products, as the DHA additive is not a certified organic ingredient. The plaintiffs request a trial by jury and seek judgment against defendants, injunctive relief, declare this suit as a class action, designate class representative and class counsel, award restitution, attorneys’ fees, expenses, costs, interest, and other relief as may be just and proper, reported Legal Newsline (Jan. 4).
Meanwhile, a suit seeking class action status argued a Beaverton Foods's mustard product is falsely advertised as having no preservatives. The suit claims Inglehoffer Stone Ground mustard products contain citric acid although the marketing for the products claims there are no preservatives, reported Legal Newsline (Jan. 4).
Unfortunately, these are just a few of the suits that have been filed in the past few years over similar advertising and labeling claims. Join The Food Institute and OFW Law for a 90-minute webinar on January 24, 2018 at 1 pm ET to learn how to protect your business against these suits. Listen as our authoritative class action counsel discusses current trends in food and beverage class action demand letters and litigation. Learn how to: avoid "lighting rod" claims, identify trending label statements that pose potential trouble, minimize risk in making ingredient statements on the principle display panel, sidestep the pitfalls of "natural," "handcrafted," "ethically sourced," and other undefined claims, avoid becoming the target of a non-functional slack-fill action, analyze strategies and tactics for defending class actions in court, and stay abreast of the latest case law developments impacting food and beverage claims.
For more information or to register, visit "Avoiding the Food Labeling Class Action Trap - Update 2018."
[Editor's note: OFW Law Principal Attorney Michael J. O'Flaherty provided this blog piece regarding the need for federal oversight regarding the ongoing trend of class action lawsuits filed against food companies regarding product labeling.]read more
Jennette has been with The Food Institute since 2013. As Marketing Director, she is responsible for promoting all Food Institute books, seminars and webinars, as well as writing and editing the Food Institute’s annual publications. Additionally, she writes for and edits the daily news update, Today in Food, and contributes to the weekly Food Institute Report. She has a background in non-profit and environmental marketing, programming and writing, and graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a degree in Communication Studies.
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