Posts Tagged ‘litigation’

Lawsuits Allege Earth’s Best and Similac Organic Infant Formulas Violate Organic Standards

Federal court in New York says – for the first time – consumers can sue over violations of organic law

I am often asked, can we trust the USDA organic seal? My answer is for the most part yes, because it’s based on clearly defined legal standards, as opposed to say, the word “natural.” But two class action lawsuits against leading makers of organic infant formula are making me rethink that answer. One case is against Abbott Laboratories alleging its Similac Advance organic infant formula contains 26 (more than half) ingredients not allowed in organic products; specifically: “irradiated substances, synthetic compounds, or produced from hazardous substances.”

The other case, perhaps more disturbingly, accuses natural food giant Hain Celestial Group of false and misleading labeling by violating the organic standards with its Earth’s Best Organic infant formula, along with numerous other products. (Both cases were filed in New York, the plaintiffs live in New York and California.) From the complaint:

Behind the picturesque red barn of the Earth’s Best logo lies a chemical soup. Of the 48 ingredients in Earth’s Best Organic Infant Formula more than half – 26 are not permitted in organic foods by federal law. More than three-fourths – 38 of the ingredients are synthetic compounds, including artificial flavors, artificial preservatives, artificial colors, toxic compounds, and hazardous substances.

Earth’s Best Organic formula dominates the organic formula market with 65% dollar share. The judge in that case recently made an important legal ruling that could significantly impact future litigation regarding organic products. In its defense, Hain Celestial tried to claim that the federal Organic Foods Production Act preempts or trumps the state-based consumer deception claims made by the plaintiffs. (Preemption is an common defense in lawsuits like this.) But the judge didn’t buy it, denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss and allowing the case to move forward.

This ruling is important because it allows for a private right of action under state consumer protection laws for alleged violations of federal organic standards. In an apparent attempt at damage control, Hain Celestial put out a press release on Monday claiming its “full line of Certified USDA Organic Formulas [is] made with pure, high quality ingredients for babies and toddlers.” The release also notes: “The organic formula industry continues to grow and is relied on by parents deeply.” That much is true. That’s why it’s especially troubling if parents have been deceived into feeding their babies formula labeled certified organic that in fact contains numerous unapproved ingredients.

(Disclosure: I occasionally consult with one of the law firms involved; I was not paid to write this.)

Suing Big Food for Financial Liability – Lawyer Responds

Earlier this month, POLITICO’s Helena Bottemiller stirred things up with “The plot to make Big Food Pay” about the potential for tobacco-style litigation brought by states to recoup medical expenses incurred for diet-related health problems. Several other media outlets responded with knee-jerk negative reactions to the idea, mostly out of ignorance. So Paul McDonald, the attorney pitching the idea to several states, is now setting the record straight. He allowed me to post his op-ed in POLITICO, in which he aims to explain the legal theory and moral rationale. Download the article here.

Industry Lawyers Tell Big Food How Not to Get Sued

Last week I attended a conference in Washington DC with the lofty title: “3rd Advanced Regulatory and Compliance Summit on Food & Beverage Marketing & Advertising.” The event’s main sponsor was the law firm of Faegre Baker Daniels, whose numerous mega-corporate food clients include Cargill, Dean Foods, and Nestlé. In addition, the firm represents (under the heading of “crop protection“) Big Biotech players such as Bayer, Dow, and DuPont. The presenters were almost all industry lawyers, with a few government types. Not one member of the plaintiffs bar or anyone from a public interest organization was a speaker, and it seemed most of the audience was also from industry.

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Top 10 Crusaders in the Food Movement – Lawyer Edition

Last year, I wrote about this topic out of frustration that lists like this one tend to neglect an entire profession. It seems one year later, this serious omission continues to persist. And just to prove my point, my 2013 list does not repeat any of the lawyers I listed in 2012, but be sure to check them out too as they are still deserving of the recognition.

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How to Stop Deceptive Food Marketers? Take Them to Court

http://www.healthbeyondhype.com/info/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/natural-junk.jpeg

Last week, Monster Beverage filed an unusual lawsuit against the San Francisco City Attorney’s office to stop an attempt to place restrictions on the company’s highly caffeinated and potentially harmful products aimed at youth. This aggressive move is a form of backlash against using the legal system to hold the food and beverage industry’s accountable for deceptive marketing practices.
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