Anyone who has strolled the supermarket alcohol aisle in recent months may fairly stand in awe of the proliferation of boozy and not-so-boozy drinks in pretty packages, with small cans and pastel colors making it difficult to immediately discern whether they contain alcohol and, if so, how much. According to Nielsen data, in 2021,
Food and Drug
FDA and CDC Agree to Partner to Reduce Foodborne Illness in Retail and Foodservice Establishments
On October 4th, the FDA and CDC announced that the agencies have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding, renewing their collaboration to reduce the occurrence of foodborne illness in retail and foodservice establishments. The stated purpose of the partnership is to “help increase the consistency and capacity of retail food protection programs…
FDA Proposes New “Healthy” Definition As Part of Comprehensive Biden Administration Nutrition and Health Initiatives
Earlier this week, as part of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, President Biden announced a goal of ending hunger and increasing healthy eating and physical activity by 2030 so fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases. The strategy identifies actions to be taken across five guiding pillars: first, improving food access and affordability, second, integrating nutrition and health, third, empowering all consumers to make and have access to healthy choices, fourth, supporting physical activity for all, and finally, enhancing nutrition and food security research. In order to achieve the third pillar, President Biden proposes, among other things, to develop a front-of-packaging labeling scheme for food packages, facilitate sodium reduction in the food supply by issuing longer-term, voluntary sodium targets for industry, and finally to propose an update to the nutrition criteria for a “healthy” claim on food packages. On the heels of this announcement, FDA released a proposed rule that would bring the requirements to use the word “healthy” in a claim in-line with modern dietary guidance.
What Is Changing?
The proposed rule attempts to harmonize the definition of “healthy” with the current recommendations published in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. Accordingly, the proposed “healthy” definition uses a food group-based approach in addition to nutrients to limit (based on the understanding that each food group contributes an array of important nutrients to the diet), which has changed since 1994, when the current definition of “healthy” was promulgated. The proposed rule would also require a food to contain a certain amount from at least one of the food groups or subgroups (vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein foods) recommended by the Dietary Guidelines in order to use the “Healthy” claim, e.g., there must be at least ½ cup of fruits or vegetables, 3/4 cup of dairy, a range of 1-1 and 1/2 ounces of protein depending on the type, or no less than 3/4 ounce whole grain. Additionally, the new rule discards certain nutrient requirement provisions as no longer relevant while prescribing limits on three specific nutrients – sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar. Required amounts and limits are all adjusted for each specific food group, as well as the type of item (a mixed product, a main dish, a meal) in question. Finally, the proposed rule creates a group of foods, including raw and whole fruits and vegetables, and water, that will be automatically considered “healthy” and can use the claim without being subject to requirements for food group equivalent amounts or the nutrients to limit.
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Mid-Year Check-in on NAD Food, Supplement and Personal Care Product Cases
The halfway point of 2022 finds NAD digging deep on supplement substantiation and looking closely at whether product names convey misleading claims. Here are highlights from the past quarter and links to our posts from earlier this year. Enjoy!
The Proof Is In the Testing (NAD Case No. 7067): NAD recommended that Dakota Nutrition, Inc., discontinue a broad range of claims relating to the presence of elderberry in the company’s Elderberry Capsules and Elderberry Gummies products, including claims that the products even contain elderberry or provide benefits commonly associated with elderberry. NAD also recommended that Dakota Nutrition discontinue use of the term “elderberry” in the product name given that Dakota Nutrition was unable to provide a reasonable basis that its products contain elderberry, based on HPLC and HPTLC testing provided by the advertiser. This case is a reminder of the importance of robust ingredient and finished product testing, particularly as many companies have shifted to alternate suppliers during the pandemic to meet consumer demands.
Mmmm…Chicle (NAD Case No. 7077): NAD also went deep into ingredient testing in a challenge filed by global confectioner Perfetti Van Melle USA, Inc., against Mazee, LLC, maker of Glee Gum. Mazee advertised Glee Gum as, among other things, an all-natural, eco-friendly chewing gum made from chicle, a tree sap that Mazee claimed is sustainably harvested from the rainforests of Central America. To support its claims that Glee Gum contained chicle, Mazee provided information from its supplier stating that the gum base is 94% chicle tree sap (the other 6% consists of candelilla wax and natural citrus acid), along with the results of Carbon-14 testing by Beta Analytic.
Perfetti rebutted that the supplier information did not show that chicle is an ingredient because the CAS Registry Number it listed to identify “Chicle Tree Sap” is not the CAS Registry Number of chicle or any other known chemical substance. Further, the challenger argued that the results of Mazee’s Carbon-14 tests do not provide any information as to whether the gum base in Glee Gum contains chicle, but only purport to provide information regarding whether the carbon in Glee Gum is plant or fossil-based. Perfetti further attacked Mazee’s claims with analysis from two experts who concluded that Glee Gum did not exhibit typical chicle-related characteristics and, instead, their analysis suggested the presence of synthetic materials. Based on this, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue claims that the gum base of Glee Gum is “made with chicle.”…
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Food + Personal Care Litigation and Regulatory Highlights – January 2022
Welcome to our 2022 inaugural issue of Food and Personal Care Litigation and Regulatory Highlights, where we explore trends and developments from around these industries. It’s fair to say that the year has started off very busy in both the courtroom and the regulatory arena. On this chilly winter day, our first stop is in California.
Our friends at Kelley Green Law Blog get the starting position for this issue by highlighting a precipitous uptick in the number of Prop 65 filings over the prior year. While the Covid-19 pandemic caused all sorts of disruptions to society and the economy, at least one area of business has thrived over the last two years: private plaintiff enforcement of California Proposition 65. In 2020-2021, over 40% more Prop 65 actions were brought by private plaintiff “bounty hunters” than in the two years prior to the pandemic (2018-2019). Compared to a decade ago, private plaintiff groups now initiate three times more Prop 65 actions each year, and five times more than in 2008. Learn more here about the most frequently cited chemicals and those that are emerging, including PFAS.
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Food Industry Litigation and Regulatory Highlights, October 2021
Welcome back from the annual food coma known as Thanksgiving dinner. If you’re still dreaming of cranberries, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, continue the gastronomic journey with our monthly wrap up of what’s been going on in the food court, NAD’s opining on use of emojis to convey advertising claims , and highlights from FDA’s recent…
FTC/FDA Cease and Desist Letters to Companies Touting Diabetes Cures: Is the FTC Testing the Limits of Its Civil Penalty Authority?
As they often have done in the past, the FTC and the FDA issued joint cease and desist letters last week to 10 companies suspected of making unproven health claims – in this instance, claims that dietary supplements treat or cure diabetes. The FTC and the FDA join forces on such letters in order to…
Food Industry Regulatory and Litigation Highlights – June 2021
For our June review, the action stays largely in the litigation arena with vanilla getting thrown out and sustainability as well as settlements getting called into question. Meanwhile, environmental and health stakeholders are pushing FDA to ban PFAS from food contact uses as many in industry move away from PFAS-containing packaging. How to digest all of it? Consider some yogurt. FDA updated the standard of identity, making it more delicious than ever. Let’s take a look….
Two More Vanilla Cases Get Thrown Out of the Food Court
In Robie v. Trader Joe’s Co., the Northern District of California dismissed claims that Trader Joe’s Almond Clusters cereal should have been labeled as “artificially flavored.” The court held that, because the vanilla flavor can from both the vanilla plant and vanillin derived from tree bark, it was properly labeled as “Vanilla Flavored With Other Natural Flavors” under applicable FDA regulations and the plaintiff’s claims suggesting otherwise were preempted. The court also found that the plaintiff had failed to allege facts suggesting that reasonable consumers would interpret “vanilla” on the product label to mean that the product’s flavor is derived exclusively from the vanilla plant, especially given that the challenged label did not contain any other words or pictures suggesting that the flavor was derived exclusively from the vanilla bean.
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Food Industry Regulatory and Litigation Highlights – April and May 2021
Welcome to our April + May combined report on food litigation, regulatory trends and events. We have a lot to report in the food world, with a number of litigation currents starting to form, and some new waves building. Let’s see what happened….
Cheesy Goodness? General Mills was hit with five putative class actions challenging its Annie’s mac and cheese marketing representations that the product is “Made with Goodness” when, in fact, it contains potentially harmful chemicals known as ortho-phthalates which are linked to asthma, breast cancer and diabetes. The cases are pending in the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York and the Northern District of California. The Kraft Heinz Company was named in similar suits filed in the Northern District of California and the Northern District of Illinois.
Sparkling Water/Seltzer: A number of companies were named in putative class actions alleging that various sparkling water products misrepresented the nature of the flavoring agents used. For example, a complaint against Whole Foods (filed in the Southern District of New York) alleges that the Lemon Raspberry Italian Sparkling Mineral Water does not contain an appreciable amount real lemons or real raspberries. Similarly, a complaint against Kroger (filed in the Northern District of California) challenges the non-disclosure of artificial flavoring chemicals. Finally, Molson Coors Beverage Company was named in a class action alleging that its “Vizzy” brand hard seltzers are marketed as containing a significant amount of healthful qualities and nutrients such as vitamin C which, according to the complaint, falsely implies that alcoholic beverages could provide health benefits.
More Vanilla: April and May saw two new vanilla filings, including a case against Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc., alleging that the defendant’s “Premium Vanilla” ice cream was falsely labeled as containing “natural colors and flavors” (Northern District of Illinois) and a case against Hostess alleging that its vanilla wafer products were falsely advertised as containing real vanilla (Missouri state court).
More Natural: The past two months have seen a slew of new “natural” filings in the food industry. Such filings challenge of synthetic preservatives and other ingredients including citric acid (3 cases), ascorbic acid (1 case), artificial coloring (1 case), and monk fruit extract, which is alleged to be natural but processed with artificial solvents and additives (1 case). The filings were made across the country, including in Missouri state court (4 cases), the Central District of California (1 case), and the Southern District of Illinois (1 case). In addition to the natural allegations relating to monk fruit extract, a case against Chobani also challenges claims relating to “complete nutrition,” “advanced nutrition” and the use of a “+” symbol in connection with prebiotics and probiotics which, according to the complaint, falsely suggests that the product has more pre- and probiotics than other comparable foods.
Coffee, Please: We have also seen an uptick in coffee-related class actions, with two actions alleging that ground coffee products artificially inflate the number of cups that can be made from their contents given the directions for use.
Delivery Fees: April and May saw a continued trend of challenges relating to food delivery charges during the pandemic, with cases filed against GrubHub, alleged to have charged an undisclosed $2.50/delivery fee on top of its $9.99/month “Unlimited Free Delivery” for GrubHub+ users, and against Panera, alleged to have falsely promised a flat delivery charge on food deliveries ordered through Panera’s app and website. Both cases are pending in California state court.
Food Settlements …
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Food Industry Regulatory and Litigation Highlights – March 2021
Welcome to our selected regulatory and litigation highlights impacting the food and beverage industry in March 2021. The food court saw its own brand of March Madness with disputes over food delivery fees kicking off this month’s update.
Hidden Delivery Fees
A number of suits were filed in March regarding undisclosed delivery fees. …