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“All Natural” Litigation and Settlements on the Rise

“All Natural” Litigation and Settlements on the Rise

February 11, 2014

Authored by: Sara Ahmed

Litigation surrounding “all natural” claims has been ramping up, and settlements are on the rise.

Naked Juice paid $9 million dollars to settle claims about the “all natural” branding of its juices in 2013.  As of February 6th, Trader Joe’s is following suit and plans to pay out $3.38 million dollars in addition to discontinuing the use of “all natural” and “100% natural” on products that include ascorbic acid, cocoa processed with alkali, sodium acid pyrophosphate, vegetable mono- and diglycerides, and xanthan gum.

The FDA’s failure to define “natural” is contributing to the flurry of “all natural” consumer class actions, and there is no sign that the FDA plans to provide a definition anytime soon.  On January 6, 2014 the FDA declined a request from three federal judges for clarification of the meaning “natural.”

With little guidance from the FDA, companies are trying to find their own ways of avoiding costly lawsuits.  For some, re-branding is the

FDA Extends Animal Food Rule Comment Period

FDA has announced that it is extending the comment period on its proposed rule regarding Current Good Manufacturing Practices and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals until March 31, 2014.  FDA is also extending the comment period on the related Draft Qualitative Risk Assessment of Risk of Activity/Animal Food Combinations for Activities (Outside the Farm Definition) Conducted in a Facility Co-Located on a Farm to the same date.

Gear Up for the FDA’s Menu Labeling Regulations

Gear Up for the FDA’s Menu Labeling Regulations

January 23, 2014

Authored by: Sara Ahmed

The FDA’s highly anticipated proposed rules regarding menu labeling are set for release just around the corner, and businesses and elected officials are already reacting.

The proposed rules apply to chain restaurants, retail food establishments, and vending machines with 20 or more locations and require that menus be labeled with caloric information and that certain nutritional information be made readily available to patrons.

While some chain retailers applaud the idea of nationwide uniform labeling requirements for the sake of ease, others are concerned about the cost and efficacy of the proposed rules.

Domino’s CEO J. Patrick Doyle has been a dissonant voice in the debate since 2011.  Maine’s Senator Angus King is another critic, and joining him are both members of the Senate and House that have sponsored S. 1756 and H.R. 1249 , bills aimed at amending the FD&C Act.  Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, who supports the amendment, claims that the FDA’s proposed “one-size-fits-all

FDA Declines To Determine Whether GMOs Are “Natural” (But The Debate Is Far From Over)

GMOs have been in the news a lot recently, from General Mills’ announcement that Cheerios will be labeled GMO-free to apples that don’t rust.  One important development that has received less attention is FDA’s decision to decline an invitation by several judges to define whether “natural” and “all natural” claims can be used with respect to products containing GMOs.  The request came from three federal judges district court judges, two in California and one in New Jersey, whose dockets have pending lawsuits alleging consumer fraud by food manufacturers who market (or marketed) products containing GMOs as “natural.”

In its response to the judges, FDA stated that although it does have a policy on what “natural” means with respect to food (“nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be

Are “Natural” Food Claims Whithering Away?

Despite recent victories by industry over “all natural” plaintiffs, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that some food companies are abandoning the “all natural” and similar claims in the face of mounting litigation and lack of clarity from FDA over the definition of “all natural” claims.  As reported in the Wall Street Journal, food and drinks labeled “natural” were responsible for $40 billion in retail sales in 2012.  However, “[o]nly 22.1% of food products and 34% of beverage products launched in the U.S. during the first half of 2013 claimed to be “natural,” down from 30.4% and 45.5%, respectively, in 2009 …. Though many Americans still want natural products, … only 47% view the claims as trustworthy.”

Washington State Voters Reject Mandatory GMO Labeling

In the first GMO labeling initiative since California voters rejected Prop 37 last November, voters once again rejected the mandatory labeling scheme.  The vote, which will likely end up being about 54% opposed and 46% in favor when certified, appears to have been heavily influenced by late campaigning from opponents.  Opponents spent about $22 million against the initiative while proponents spent about $8 million, although estimates are that only about 6% of the total amount spent came from in-state sources.

The defeat is a significant blow to proponents of mandatory GMO labeling who, with the exception of legislation passed in Connecticut that is largely contingent upon other states adopting similar laws before it is implemented, have had significant difficulty convincing voters and legislatures to adopt such initiatives. Trade groups, such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association, are looking to shift the conversation towards a “federal solution that will protect consumers by

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