Eager to curb foodborne-illness outbreaks, retail giants like Walmart and Albertsons are turning to blockchain technology [1] to track exactly where their foods are coming from. Blockchain, as compared to the eye-straining, paper-heavy tracking systems before it, allows retailers to trace the supply-chain history for a single food item within seconds.

For example, in a test case using IBM’s blockchain technology, Walmart traced the supply chain for two off-the-shelf mangoes randomly taken from one of its stores. Using conventional source-checking methods, it took them 7 days to do so. Through blockchain, however, they were able to track the entire supply chain in 2.2 seconds!  As a former Walmart executive put it, blockchain “allows us to see the whole chain in seconds! We [could] take a jar of baby food and see where it was manufactured and trace back all the ingredients to the farms!” Before blockchain, that simply would not have been feasible.

Continue Reading Blockchain Will Likely Make a Meaningful Impact on “Big Food” Litigation

The active ingredient in popular weed killers, glyphosate, has gotten bad press lately.  Thousands of plaintiffs have alleged that exposure to it caused their cancers.  Jurors have responded by invoking punitive damages and awarding billion dollar verdicts.  These headline-grabbing results have been subsequently reduced by court on legal grounds.

Some advocacy groups are claiming that the chemical’s presence extends beyond weed killers.   For example, the Environmental Working Group recently conducted a study that purports to show traces of the chemical present in many Cheerios and Quaker brand products.  To no one’s surprise, civil lawsuits followed.

Continue Reading Speculative Claims Sink Cheerios Glyphosate Suit

What started out as a proposed merger between two of the largest packaged seafood manufacturers spawned a lengthy criminal investigation into antitrust violations in the tuna industry by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and multiple class and individual civil lawsuits. After four years of litigation, a major development in the class action lawsuits occurred– the Court certified three putative classes.

In 2015, the Department of Justice investigated a proposed merger between Thai Union Group P.C.L. (the parent company of Chicken of the Sea) and Bumble Bee Foods LLC. As the DOJ’s civil attorneys reviewed information related to the merger, they discovered materials that appeared to raise criminal concerns.[1]

Continue Reading Big Food Price-Fixing Update: Court Certifies Three Putative Classes in Packaged Seafood Litigation

plant based proteinCapitalizing on an increasingly health and environmentally conscious era, plant-based meat substitute companies are positioning themselves as the future of protein. On May 2, 2019, Beyond Meat became the first plant-based product company to go public. Its stock skyrocketed to become the highest performing first-day public offering in nearly two decades. Impossible Foods is also performing well. While the company is in no rush to go public, they just secured $300 million in their latest funding round.

In light of these recent successes, the meat industry is grappling with how to address the new food phenomenon. With the long-term viability of the alternative meat market yet to be seen, traditional meat companies are taking both an offensive and defensive approach. Continue Reading Big Food and Plant-Based Protein: Potential MEATing of the Minds?

beefWhen it rains, it pours—and for the country’s largest protein producers, the downpour is coming in the form of high-profile antitrust lawsuits. Over the past few years, food giants like Tyson and JBS (majority owner of Pilgrim’s Pride) have been named as a defendant in price-fixing cases relating to chicken and pork. Now, Tyson, JBS and Cargill face claims asserted by both consumers and suppliers of beef. According to these new claims, the beef producers conspired to increase their profits by both decreasing the supply-side prices they paid and increasing the prices their customers paid. Continue Reading Beef Industry Reeks of Collusion, Plaintiffs Allege

Price FixingScott Wagner and Lori Lustrin discuss with Law360 the new wave of antitrust cases emerging in the food and beverage industry.

Price-fixing cases over the past decade have read like a virtual electronics product materials list. Government investigators and civil plaintiffs have pursued actions involving a wide array of electronic parts ranging from passive components like capacitors and inverters to large, high-cost components such as LCDs and cathode ray tubes. Recently, however, a new wave of antitrust cases has emerged, and it looks far more like a grocery list.

It is now big food’s turn in the crosshairs of government regulators and civil plaintiffs. Indeed, over the past five years alone, high-profile price-fixing cases have been launched against the manufacturers of everything from milk, to mushrooms, to the biggest protein staples in the American diet: tuna, chicken and pork. And, in the past week alone, conspiracy claims have been lodged against manufacturers of beef and farm-raised salmon.

To read the full article, click here.

water

Water: two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen. It seems simple enough, but for companies selling bottled water, liability lurks below the surface. According to a recent lawsuit, consumers care not only about what is in their water; they care about from where it comes from. Perhaps more importantly, according to the plaintiffs—so do regulators.

In Patane v. Nestle Waters N. Am. Inc., 314 F.Supp.3d 375 (D.Conn. 2018), Nestle faces allegations that it made millions of dollars by fraudulently labeling Poland Spring Water. The complaint, filed by plaintiffs from nine different states, claims that Nestle bilked consumers out of millions by selling tap water under the guise of spring water. Continue Reading Mislabeling Claims Against Poland Spring Water Survive Dismissal

CBDHistorically, all forms of cannabis—both hemp and marijuana—have been federally designated as illegal substances. That all changed this past December when the President signed the Agricultural Improvement Act (2018 Farm Bill) into law, declassifying hemp as a Schedule 1 substance.

As a result, cannabidiol (CBD)—the non-psychoactive compound found in hemp known for its relaxing and healing properties—has been catapulted into the national spotlight. With the green light from Congress, hemp-derived CBD oils, lotions, and gummies formerly found only in states where recreational marijuana is legal, are now making their way onto store shelves nationally. Continue Reading FDA to Consider Regulation of CBD in Food

Dishing Out the Latest F&B Litigation Updates: Part 4

Doss v. General Mills, No. 18-cv-61924 (S.D. Fla Aug.17, 2018)

The Skinny:  Last fall, a jury in California awarded $289 million to a plaintiff who alleged he contracted cancer from the glyphosate in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer.  Now that a bellwether trail has concluded with a substantial plaintiff win, attention shifts to the Southern District of Florida where a case is proceeding against General Mills alleging that Cheerios contains levels of the same chemical. Also see Paracha v. General Mills Inc., No. 2:18-cv-07659 for a similar case filed in a different jurisdiction. Continue Reading In the Wake of Monsanto, All Eyes are on the Cheerios Glyphosate Case

Dishing Out the Latest F&B Litigation Updates: Part 3

cranberry juiceHilsley v. Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., No. 17-cv-2335, 2018 WL 6245894 (S.D. Cal. Nov. 29, 2018)

The Skinny: Malic acid is a common food ingredient used for flavor and pH control. Because of its prevalence and varying uses, a flurry of class action cases were recently filed against companies that use malic acid while simultaneously claiming “no artificial flavors” exist in their product. In Hilsley, a California federal judge granted certification against Ocean Spray. Continue Reading Malic Acid: Newest Culprit in “Natural” Marketing Case Trend