Law Group Slams California Food Labeling Lawsuits

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Nov 18, 2014

The Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) this week urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to require plaintiffs filing lawsuits challenging food labeling accuracy to establish that they have “standing” to sue.

“It is high time to halt the deluge of food mislabeling claims being filed by plaintiffs’ lawyers under California’s Unfair Competition Law," said Richard Samp, WLF chief counsel. "In virtually all of the pending food labeling suits, including this one, there is no evidence that plaintiffs were injured by the supposed mislabeling they allege."

He was referring to Kane v. Chobani Inc. In a brief filed in that case, WLF argues that standing rules require plaintiffs to prove that they purchased the food in reliance on the labeling statement they assert is misleading, yet in this — as in many similar cases — plaintiffs could not possibly have relied on their idiosyncratic reading of the label.

The plaintiffs in Kane v. Chobani Inc. allege they purchased Chobani yogurt after reading on the label that the product contains “only natural ingredients.” The plaintiffs allege that the “natural” claim is false because the yogurt contains fruit and vegetable juice concentrate to add color.

They also allege the ingredients list misled them because it should have used the term “dried cane syrup” instead of “evaporated cane juice” to more accurately describe the added sugars in the yogurt.

WLF argued that the plaintiffs could not possibly have relied on the two cited label provisions in their purchase decisions, given that:

1. The label explicitly stated that the yogurt contained color additives.

2. “Evaporated cane juice” is a commonly used term to describe added sugars.

3. Plaintiffs admit that they knew the yogurt contained fruit and vegetable juice concentrate and that such concentrate is a well-known source of added sugar; knowing that, they could not have genuinely believed that the yogurt contained no added sugars.

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is headquartered in San Francisco, with jurisdiction over most western states.

WLF (www.wlf.org) is a public interest law firm and policy center with supporters nationwide. WLF devotes a substantial portion of its resources to civil justice reform and ending class action lawsuit abuse, including in the food & beverage industries through its Eating Away Our Freedoms project.

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