In an aggressive expansion of its security and privacy enforcement programs, on September 15, 2021, the FTC issued what it characterized as a “Policy Statement” reinterpreting an old rule about personal health records.

First, some background. In 2009, Congress directed the FTC to create a rule requiring companies to provide notice when there

The dietary supplement and personal care product space continued to see enforcement on false CBD, COVID, and fertility claims as well as related litigation involving “germ-killing” claims on hand sanitizers and wipes.  Messy stuff…Let’s take a look…

LITIGATION

Personal Care Products

In a blow to the trending “pink tax” theory of liability in consumer class actions, in May, the Eighth Circuit ruled that various personal care product manufacturers and retailers did not violate Missouri’s anti-discrimination laws by charging more for products marketed towards women as compared to allegedly identical products that were either marketed towards men or utilized gender-neutral marketing.  The Court found that the plaintiff “mistakes gender-based marketing for gender discrimination” and, in the process, ignores numerous differences between the products that account for the higher price tag.  There has been a handful of similar “pink tax” cases filed over the last year or two, but this is the first appellate court to rule on the issue.
Continue Reading Dietary Supplement and Personal Care Products Regulatory and Litigation Highlights – May and 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….

LITIGATION

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.
Continue Reading Food Industry Regulatory and Litigation Highlights – June 2021

Food and Beverage Litigation HighlightsWelcome 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….

New Filings

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 
Continue Reading Food Industry Regulatory and Litigation Highlights – April and May 2021

13(b)Recently, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce published a letter to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the Congressional Committee currently working on draft language for a new Section 13(b) of the FTC Act. The Chamber’s letter cautions Congress to ensure that any new statutory language not give the FTC too much authority. In advocating caution, the Chamber makes an important, if subtle, point. The FTC is now arguing that the Supreme Court “took away” 13(b) powers it had before. In reality, though, the Supreme Court in AMG explained that FTC never had the power it arrogated in the first place.

The Chamber’s letter noted that the legislative history of the FTC Act requires the Commission to use Section 19’s administrative processes to obtain monetary relief for past violations. There is no reason that Congress should provide the FTC with additional powers, according to the Chamber, when the FTC already has an avenue to seek monetary relief.

The Chamber’s argument here largely mimics the position of Justice Breyer, who authored the AMG decision from a unanimous Court, concluding that the current version of 13(b) does not allow monetary relief. In AMG, Justice Breyer explained that “[t]he Commission may obtain monetary relief by first invoking its administrative procedures and then § 19’s redress provisions (which include limitations) . . . By contrast, the Commission’s broad reading would allow it to use §13(b) as a substitute for §5 and §19.”

The Chamber’s letter urged Congress not to upset the fine balance the FTC Act originally envisioned. While the Chamber agreed that the FTC should be able to go immediately to Court “to seek appropriate equitable monetary relief for clearly fraudulent cases that are found to be in violation of the law,” it explained that “[m]onetary relief should not be available for every consumer protection violation but should be reserved for the most egregious types of cases.”
Continue Reading Acting Chair Rebecca Slaughter and Chamber of Commerce Spar Over a New 13(b)

Welcome to our monthly digest of litigation and regulatory highlights impacting the personal care product and dietary supplement industry.  April saw a re-emphasis on restriction of COVID-related claims in advertisements for supplements and therapies, developments in various class action cases, including a win for consumers challenging hand sanitizer’s claims of killing 99.99% of germs and a slew of new “natural” class actions, and finally a roller coaster ride for the FTC involving major blows and power moves.

Let’s take a look….
Continue Reading Dietary Supplement and Personal Care Products Regulatory and Litigation Highlights – April 2021

Congressional Democrats Sound the Alarm, Rally In an Effort to Restore Pre-AMG 13(b) Enforcement AuthorityYesterday, less than a week after the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in AMG Capital Management v. FTC, two Congressional committees zeroed in on the FTC’s hollowed-out Section 13(b) authority, the fate of which now lies squarely with Congress. Leading Democrats in both chambers have expressed the urgent need for legislation to clarify and strengthen

Welcome to our curated selection of highlights of regulatory and litigation developments in the dietary supplement and personal care product industries for March 2021.  In case you were wondering what pain relief, teeth whitening, and CBD have in common (and, who wasn’t?) it seems that one year into the pandemic, these are the advertising battles

Welcome to our monthly digest of litigation and regulatory highlights impacting the food and beverage industry.  February saw another win for industry on the vanilla front, a preemption win in California state court, and FDA continuing with COVID-19-related warning letters and foreign supplier verification enforcement.  Let’s take a look….

Litigation

Industry scored another win on