On June 8, 2020, Judge Katherine Polk Failla in the Southern District of New York dismissed a putative class action against TGI Friday’s (“Friday’s”) for alleged deceptive advertising.

The Plaintiff claimed the labeling of Friday’s “Sour Cream & Onion Potato Skins” chips is misleading because it led her to believe the snack contained real potato skins and was thus a healthier option than most chips. According to the Plaintiff, she—and the members of the putative class she sought to represent—would not have purchased the purportedly falsely labeled chips if she had known they did not contain real potato skins.


Continue Reading Putative Class Action Against TGI Friday’s Dismissed

Pursuant to standard FDA regulations, retail restaurants with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name (and offering the substantially same menu) are required to provide nutritional information for standard menu items, including calorie information. But with state and local governments’ recent orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing restaurants to close their dining rooms and switch to take-out or delivery only, many restaurants are also being forced to make impromptu changes to their menu offerings. While these seemingly innocuous menu changes are relatively easy to implement under ordinary circumstances, labeling changes are far more difficult in the midst of a pandemic that has caused restaurants to struggle substantially on multiple levels.

Recognizing this reality, the FDA has acted quickly to temporarily reduce nutritional and menu labeling restrictions. Specifically, the FDA recently announced that it will not object to restaurants that do not meet the normal menu labeling requirements during the pandemic. These changes are meant to avoid food shortages, keep restaurants open, and avoid wasting food.


Continue Reading FDA Temporarily Relaxes Food Labeling Regulations

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

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?

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

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

LabelThe saying goes, knowledge equals power. For plaintiffs asserting claims for injunctive relief on behalf of putative classes, however, the Mott’s Apple Juice case demonstrates just the opposite.

The Northern District of California’s recent order denying reconsideration of its summary judgment ruling in Rahman v. Mott’s LLP, 2018 WL 4585024 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 25, 2018) holds that a plaintiff cannot “plausibly claim” that he will suffer future harm if he is now “fully aware” of what the allegedly deceptive statement means.
Continue Reading Knowledge Is Not Power for Class Action Plaintiffs

Vita Coco

On September 26, 2018, the Honorable Judge Robert N. Scola entered an Order denying class certification in a consumer deceptive advertising case. Plaintiffs claimed that the use of the phrase “born in brazil” on containers of Vita Coco, the leading brand of coconut water, caused them to believe that Vita Coco was manufactured in or sourced exclusively from Brazil, when it was not. Plaintiffs sought to certify injunctive classes under FRCP Rule 23(b)(2) and damages classes under Rule 23(b)(3).

The Court denied class certification for two primary reasons. First, the Court found that the named plaintiffs lacked standing to represent the injunctive classes where there was no real and immediate threat of future injury. The Court observed that any alleged future harm suffered by the plaintiffs was self-inflicted:
Continue Reading Defense Victory in Product Labeling Class Action

almond milkAt a recent Politico event, Federal Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb signaled the agency’s shift to a new era of more stringent enforcement in the dairy business. Gottlieb did so with an amusing quote: “An almond doesn’t lactate, I will confess.”

Gottlieb’s curious combination of words was referring to the federal regulation that defines what may be legally marketed as “milk.” Section 131.110 of the Code of Federal Regulations states that “milk is the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.” Gottlieb’s comment reflected that since almonds do not lactate, the beverage currently known by consumers as “almond milk” does not strictly fall under the definition of milk.
Continue Reading (Don’t) Got Milk? FDA Cracking Down on Plant-Based Beverages