WE DEDICATE OURSELVES to serving the greater good by holding large corporations accountable for actions that can harm consumers, public health, and the environment. The driving force behind our consumer protection practice is providing clients with innovative and effective solutions to the legal problems they, and many others like them, face.
The firm was founded on the idea that what has not been achieved through legislation can be achieved through litigation. Our attorneys are advocates for the public interest and act as private attorneys general, seeking to fill in the gaps where legislative and regulatory efforts currently fall short. Many of our cases relate to matters overlooked by United States agencies such as the USDA (Animal Welfare and Organic Integrity), FDA (Food and Labeling Transparency), EPA (Environmental and Food System Contamination), and FTC (“Greenwashing” and Truth-In-Advertising).
Animal Welfare and Organic Integrity (“USDA”)
Direct Action Everywhere, a non-profit focused on protecting animal welfare, and a California consumer representing a putative class brought suit against Diestel Turkey Ranch for the false advertising of its turkey products. Diestel Turkey Ranch is a California-based turkey farm that markets and advertises its turkey products as “Thoughtfully Raised,” “Range-Grown,” “Slow Grown,” and “ Thoughtfully Raised on Sustainable Farms,” among other slogans evocative of humane animal-raising practices. In its advertising, Diestel also invites the public to visit its picturesque turkey ranch in Sonora, where guests can watch as turkeys freely roam the sprawling, green pastures in the foothills of Northern California, creating the impression that all of Diestel’s turkeys are raised in such idyllic conditions. However, the complaint alleges that the company intentionally omits the fact that many of Diestel’s turkeys are actually housed in industrial barns in facilities located miles away from the idyllic Sonora Ranch. The complaint further alleges, conditions at these off-site facilities, which are not open to public scrutiny, are no different from typical agro-industrial conditions, and include overcrowded poultry barns and inhumane conditions with insufficient space for birds to engage in natural behaviors. These conditions are certainly not those expected at a ranch at which turkeys are “Thoughtfully Raised.” With its misrepresentations, the complaint alleges, Diestel is misleading consumers who seek humanely-raised turkeys and unjustly profiting off of their willingness to pay a premium for turkeys that are more ethically produced. The complaint seeks injunctive relief, including an order requiring Diestel to cease the deceptive marketing of its turkey products and requiring them to conduct a corrective advertising campaign, as well as direct financial relief for consumers.
Direct Action Everywhere SF Bay Area, et al. v. Diestel Turkey Ranch
- EcoWatch, 11/18/17 – “Popular Diestel Turkey Sold at Whole Foods Tests Positive for FDA-Prohibited Drugs”
- Truth-Out, 3/9/17 – “False Advertising Lawsuit Against Major Whole Foods Supplier”
- Union Democrat, 2/8/17 – “Animal-rights group sues Mother Lode turkey ranch”
- Direct Action Everywhere Press Release
The Organic Consumers Association, a non-profit organization, filed suit against Handsome Brook Farm® alleging that the company knowingly deceived customers regarding its animal welfare standards by selling non-pasture raised eggs and falsely labeling them as “Pasture Raised.” Subsequently, Vital Farms, Inc., a competing producer of pasture-raised eggs, also brought suit against Handsome Brook Farm under the Lanham Act, alleging that the company’s misleading advertising and deceptive practices, particularly those relating to pasture-raised standards, are what allowed them to charge lower prices and usurp customers and profits from Vital Farms. As public awareness has grown regarding the inhumane treatment of animals raised for food, and especially the conditions in which many caged egg-laying hens are kept, consumer demand for humanely produced and pasture-raised eggs has grown. Vital Farms has been ethically producing and selling pasture-raised eggs since 2008. The complaints allege that Handsome Brook Farm®, who has been selling pasture-raised eggs since 2009, falsely advertises and markets its eggs as exclusively “pasture-raised” when in fact its products include eggs from hens who were not pasture-raised. Within a few years, Handsome Brook Farm® grew its egg production and distribution operations from a single flock to hundreds of thousands of hens within its supply chain. This rate of growth is staggering, and unknown among egg distributors who engage in humane, organic, or other quality-control practices beyond basic agro-industrial animal husbandry. The complaints allege that Handsome Brook Farm® accomplished this by selling eggs from contract farmers that did not raise their hens in accordance with “pasture-raised” standards. The Organic Consumers Association seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, including an order requiring Handsome Brook Farm® to cease its misleading marketing practices and to disseminate corrective advertising. Vital Farms seeks similar declaratory and injunctive, in addition to monetary relief.
Vital Farms, Inc. v. Handsome Brook Farm, LLC, et al.
Organic Consumers Association v. Handsome Brook Farm, LLC, et al.
- New York Times, 1/31/17 – “What to Make of Those Animal-Welfare Labels on Meat and Eggs”
- Legal NewsLine, 11/16/16 – “Egg distributor dealing with litigation after obtaining injunction”
- Cornucopia, 8/30/16 – “OCA Sues Handsome Brook Farm Over Pasture-Raised Claims”
The Animal Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit animal advocacy organization, filed a lawsuit against Hormel® Foods Corporation, alleging that the company is misleading consumers with their advertising of the Natural Choice® product line of lunch meats and bacon. The complaint alleges that, with the slogan “Make the Natural Choice” and repeated claims that its Natural Choice® products are “100% Natural” and “All-Natural,” Hormel® misleads consumers into believing that it does not raise animals in inhumane, industrial, pharmaceutical-driven factory farm conditions. However, the complaint further alleges, Hormel’s® “natural” meats actually come from the same pigs and the same giant, factory slaughterhouses that are used for the company’s other products, such as canned Spam®. Prior to filing the lawsuit, the Animal Legal Defense Fund exposed Hormel’s® factory farming practices through an undercover investigation of one of Hormel’s® largest suppliers. The investigation documented the suppliers’ treatment of the animals, including a lack of veterinary care, multiple days without food, and intense confinement. The Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief to end Hormel’s® deceptive marketing and advertising practices.
Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Hormel Foods Corporation
- Bloomberg, 6/30/2016 – “What’s ‘All Natural’ Meat? Hormel Is About to Find Out”
- The New Republic, 6/30/2016 – “The Stomach-Turning Truth Behind Hormel’s “Natural” Pork”
- Fox News, 7/1/2016 – “Hormel Sued Over Its ‘Misleading’ Use of the Term ‘Natural’ on Meat Products”
- Animal Legal Defense Fund Press Releases – “Hormel Sued for Deceptive & Misleading Advertising of So-called ‘Natural’ Products” and “Court Greenlights Deceptive Advertising Case Against Hormel “Natural Choice” Products”
Three non-profit organizations filed suit against the country’s third largest poultry producer, Sanderson Farms®, Inc., for falsely advertising products that contain unnatural substances as “100% Natural.” Sanderson Farms® claims its chicken products are “100% Natural” and “nothing but chicken,” but recent testing conducted by the United State Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service found a shocking number of instances in which residues of synthetic drugs, which are not “100% Natural,” appeared in samples of Sanderson Farms® chicken. Substances include antibiotics (many of which are medically important for humans), steroids, hormones, and even ketamine, a drug with hallucinogenic effects. By marketing these products as “100% Natural,” the complaint alleges, Sanderson Farms® misleadingly suggests that consumers are not ingesting synthetic drugs or other chemicals, and that no antibiotics or other pharmaceuticals are utilized in the raising of their chickens. While Sanderson Farms® relies upon images of idyllic farming in its marketing, the presence of these contaminants is illustrative of farming practices that do not prioritize animal welfare, public health, or environmental sustainability. Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief to end Sanderson Farms’® deceptive marketing and advertising practices.
- Law360, 2/9/18 – “Sanderson Farms Must Face ‘100% Natural’ Suit”
- Law360, 6/23/17 – “Sanderson Poultry Hit With Suit On ‘100% Natural’ Claim”
- Bloomberg, 6/22/17 – “There Could Be Ketamine in Your ‘Natural’ Chicken”
Food and Labeling Transparency (“FDA”)
Consumers from several states brought suits against ConAgra Foods, Inc. and were subsequently consolidated into a Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) under consumer protection statutes in fifteen states. Plaintiffs allege that ConAgra deceptively and misleadingly labeled and marketed its Wesson® Oil brand cooking oils as “100% Natural” when they contain unnatural, genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Wesson® Oils are made with plants – including rapeseed, soybeans, and corn – whose genes have been directly altered by scientists in a lab using biotechnology for the express purpose of causing those plants to exhibit traits that are not naturally their own. GMOs are not “Natural” by design – they are created artificially in a laboratory through genetic engineering – and Plaintiffs allege that representing products with GMOs as “Natural” is therefore false and disingenuous. Plaintiffs seek monetary, declaratory, and injunctive relief.
In Re ConAgra Foods, Inc.
- Harvard Law Review, 6/10/17 – “Briseno v. ConAgra Foods, Inc.”
- Food Navigator USA, 1/4/17 – “ConAgra dealt blow by ninth circuit in ‘100% natural’ case, but its wider significance is less clear, say experts”
- Law360, 2/24/15 – “11 Statewide Classes OK’d In ConAgra ‘100% Natural’ Oil Row”
- Law360, 12/10/14 – “ConAgra Discovery Dispute Heats Up With Sanctions Threat”
A group of individual consumers, on behalf of all consumers nationwide, filed a class action lawsuit suit against Kind® LLC, the maker of the popular KIND® snack bars. The KIND® brand bars were advertised as “Non GMO” and “All Natural.” However, independent testing revealed that the snack bars contained ingredients from genetically modified crops and/or other artificial, highly processed, or synthetic ingredients. Based on this discovery, the complaint alleges that the products were not, in fact, “Non GMO” or “All Natural.” Plaintiffs further allege that Kind® LLC, by marketing these products as “Non GMO” and “All Natural,” misleadingly suggested that their snack bars are made of higher-quality and more natural ingredients than they actually are. Plaintiffs seek monetary and injunctive on behalf of the class, including an order requiring Kind® LLC to correct its deceptive marketing and advertising practices.
In Re: Kind LLC “Healthy and All Natural” Litigation
- TruthInAdvertising.org, October 2016 – “Kind Snack Bars “Health” and “All Natural” Claims”
- Top Class Actions, 4/12/16 – “Plaintiffs Ask Judge To Keep KIND Snack Bar Class Action Alive”
- Law360, 4/7/16 – “Kind Bar ‘Natural’ Suit Can’t Wait For FDA, Consumers Say”
Two consumers filed a class action lawsuit against The Procter and Gamble Company for the deceptive advertising of Ivory® Dish Detergent as “gentle on the hands” and “mild” when it contains methylisothiazolinone (MI), a known sensitizing agent and contact allergen. Consumers rely on manufacturers’ representations to help them either avoid known allergens and irritants in their products, or to at least know of potential allergens or irritants and the reactions they may cause. The Procter and Gamble Company makes various representations about the qualities of Ivory® Dish Detergent, including representations that it is “gentle on hands,” “trusted,” and “designed to have mild, long-lasting suds.” The complaint alleges that these representations falsely and misleadingly give consumers the impression that Ivory® Dish Detergent, a product that inevitably comes into direct contact with skin, is gentle and mild for skin contact and a safe and non-irritating dishwashing product. Nowhere on the product packaging, or on its website, does The Procter and Gamble Company disclose the presence of MI, a sensitizing agent and contact allergen known to adversely affect a significant percentage of the population. The Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief on behalf of the class, including an order requiring The Procter and Gamble Company to disclose the presence and properties of MI on Ivory® Dish Detergent packaging.
Thompson, et. al. v. The Procter and Gamble Company
Environmental and Food System Contamination (“EPA”)
Beyond Pesticides, a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., filed suit against Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and its subsidiary Mott’s® LLP for misleading consumers about the nature of its Mott’s® applesauce products. Mott’s® has labeled and advertised products such as Mott’s® Natural Unsweetened Applesauce, Mott’s® Healthy Harvest Applesauce varieties, and other varieties as “Natural” and/or containing “All Natural Ingredients.” The complaint alleges that by advertising and prominently labeling these products as “Natural”, Mott’s® misleads reasonable consumers into assuming that the products do not contain unnatural or synthetic ingredients. Independent lab testing confirmed that Mott’s® applesauce products contain the unnatural substance acetamiprid. Acetamiprid, a synthetic neonictinoid insecticidal neurotoxin that may be hazardous to human development and to animals such as the honeybee, is not “Natural.” These deceptive advertising tactics do not represent a commitment to environmental sustainability and marketing integrity. Plaintiff seeks injunctive and financial relief, including the establishment of a community fund for the benefit of the general public to be used for educational and other charitable purposes relating to consumer awareness of acetamiprid.
Beyond Pesticides v. Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc., and Mott’s LLP
- Natural News, 5/21/17 – “Mott’s sued over labeling pesticide-laced applesauce products “natural””
- Law360, 5/5/17 – “Mott’s Sued Over ‘Natural’ Label On Goods With Pesticides”
- Beyond Pesticides Press Release
Three non-profit organizations brought suit against General Mills, Inc. for the deceptive labeling and marketing of their Nature Valley products. Awareness of the health risks and environmental damage caused by chemical-laden foods is on the rise and has caused a concurrent increase in consumer demand for foods that are natural, whole, and free of chemicals. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for foods that they believe to be more natural. General Mills, aware of this consumer trend, aggressively advertises and promotes its Nature Valley products, particularly their granola bars, as “Made with 100% Natural Whole Grain Oats” and “100% Natural.” However, the complaint alleges, these claims are false, deceptive, and misleading because the Nature Valley products contain the unnatural chemical glyphosate, as confirmed by independent lab testing. Glyphosate is a potent biocide and herbicide that acts as a human endocrine disruptor, with detrimental health effects that are not yet fully understood. General Mills does not disclose that glyphosate is present in their products and misleadingly claims that the products are natural despite the presence of this unnatural chemical. The complaint further alleges that, based on these product representations, a reasonable consumer would not expect Nature Valley products to contain a harmful chemical like glyphosate. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief, including a halt to General Mills’ deceptive marketing and a court-ordered corrective advertising campaign to inform the public of the true nature of their products.
- Bloomberg, 8/25/16 – “Is a Granola Bar “Natural” If There’s a Pesticide in It?”
- Consumerist, 8/25/16 – “Lawsuits Claim “100% Natural” Label On Nature Valley Granola Bars Is Deceptive”
- Food Business News, 8/25/16 – “Lawsuit alleges deceptive labeling for Nature Valley”
- Fox News, 8/26/16 – “Nature Valley facing multiple lawsuits over ‘deceptive’ labeling on natural granola bars”
Two non-profit organizations and a consumer representing a putative nationwide class, filed suits against the agrochemical giant Monsanto for deceptive labeling and marketing practices. The main ingredient of Monsanto’s retail Roundup® products, the best-selling residential herbicides in the United States, is glyphosate, an herbicide and biocide that studies show can have detrimental effects on human health, particularly to the gut biome. Monsanto claims that glyphosate targets an enzyme, known as EPSP synthase, that is not found in people or pets. The complaints allege that this is false as the enzyme is found in people and pets and is notably important for the gut bacteria upon which their immune systems rely. The complaints further allege that Monsanto’s representation on the product label that “glyphosate targets an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets” is false, deceptive, and misleading. The company has economically profited and sold products at a premium by deceiving consumers about the potential effects of Roundup®. Plaintiffs seek monetary relief, including, in the non-profit action, the establishment of a fund for the benefit of the general public to be used for educational and other charitable purposes relating to consumer awareness of glyphosate.
Blitz v. Monsanto Company and Scotts MIRACLE-GRO Company
- HuffPost, 6/20/17 – “New Claims Against Monsanto In Consumer Lawsuit Over Roundup Herbicide”
- Law360, 4/10/17 – “Monsanto Hit With False Labeling Suit Over Roundup”
The Organic Consumers Association, a non-profit consumer advocacy organization, brought suit against Post Foods, LLC for deceptive labeling and marketing of its Shredded Wheat cereal products. A consumer class action suit was also filed in New York on the same grounds. Consumers increasingly and consciously seek out natural and healthful food products. Post knowingly markets its Shredded Wheat products as a natural and healthful choice containing only “100% Natural Whole Grain Wheat,” with the benefit of being a “Natural Source of Fiber,” hoping to capture the growing natural-conscious consumer market. Through representations on product labels and their website, Post cultivates its image as a healthful, wholesome, and impurity-free brand. The complaints allege that, contrary to Post’s representations, Shredded Wheat contains the unnatural chemical glyphosate, a potent biocide and herbicide that was declared a probable human carcinogen by the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization. Independent lab testing confirmed the presence of glyphosate, which is not “Natural,” in Shredded Wheat products. The complaints further allege that the company deliberately misleads consumers seeking natural food choices into buying its unnatural cereal products. Plaintiffs seek monetary, declaratory, and injunctive relief, including a halt to Post’s misleading marketing practices.
Organic Consumers Association v. Post Foods, LLC
Stephenson v. Post Foods, LLC
- Whole Foods Magazine, 7/11/16 – “Post Holding’s Sued for False “Natural” Claims”
- Law360, 6/23/16 – “Post Foods Hit With 3 Spats Over ‘Natural’ Cereal Claims”
- Takepart, 6/23/16 – “Shredded Wheat: 100 Percent Whole Grain With a Touch of Weed Killer”
- Organic Consumers Association Press Release
In suits filed in California and Washington, DC, consumers (on behalf of a putative class) and two non-profit organizations, respectively, brought claims against the Sioux Honey Association for falsely labeling their Sue Bee honey products as “Pure,” “100% Pure,” and “Natural.” Tests conducted by the Food and Drug Administration revealed the presence of glyphosate, a widely used biocide and herbicide produced by Monsanto, in Sue Bee honey products. In 2015, The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, classified glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen.” Glyphosate use negatively impacts the environment, biodiversity, public health, and our food supply. The complaints allege Sioux Honey is deceiving consumers by promoting and advertising their products as “Pure” and “ Natural” when they contain this dangerous substance. The complaints further allege that the company’s actions do not represent a commitment to truthful marketing and environmental sustainability. Plaintiffs in both cases seek injunctive relief to halt the false marketing of Sue Bee products and a court-ordered corrective advertising campaign to inform the public of the true nature of the products. Plaintiffs in the consumer class action additionally seek monetary relief for damages as a result of Sioux Honey’s misrepresentations.
Tran v. Sioux Honey Association, Cooperative
- HuffPost, 11/2/16 – “More Bad News for Honey as U.S. Seeks to Get Handle on Glyphosate Residues in Food”
“Greenwashing” and Truth-In-Advertising (“FTC”)
Three consumers filed a class action lawsuit against the international cleaning product giant, The Clorox® Company, for falsely advertising products that are produced using unnatural substances and artificial synthesis as “naturally derived.” Clorox® claims its Green Works® products are “natural” and “naturally derived,” but an in-depth investigation into the substances used in the Green Works® products revealed that each contained at least one (and often, many) synthetic or artificially-created chemicals that are neither “natural” nor “naturally derived.” Substances include artificial preservatives, lubricants, surfactants, disinfectants, as well as artificial colorants and fragrances. The complaint alleges that because these synthetic chemicals are present, Clorox’s® claims that the products are “natural,” “naturally derived,” or provide “powerful cleaning done naturally” are false and misleading. The complaint further alleges that the synthetic chemicals in the products are not “naturally derived” and may cause damage to the environment. The Plaintiffs seek monetary relief on behalf of consumers nationwide, as well as injunctive relief, including the removal of Clorox’s® misleading representations from the products.
Gregorio, et. al. v. The Clorox Company
- Law360, 2/6/18 – “Clorox Can’t Dump ‘Natural’ Cleaning Products False Ad Suit”
- Law360, 1/31/18 – “No One Thinks Toilet Cleaner Grows On Trees, Clorox Says”
- Legal NewsLine, 9/1/17 – “Consumers claim Clorox Green Works products are falsely advertised”
- Top Class Actions, 8/23/17 – “Clorox Class Action Challenges Green Works ‘Naturally Derived’ Claims”
A New York consumer has brought suit against Costco Wholesale Corporation for deceptive marketing and labeling of purportedly “environmentally responsible” cleaning products under its private-label “Kirkland Signature” line. Particular products at issue are Kirkland Signature Premium Liquid Dish Soap and the Kirkland Signature Premium Laundry Detergent. Costco labels the products as “environmentally responsible,” alongside claims that the products are made from “naturally derived ingredients,” “Recognized for Safer Chemistry,” “safer for the planet,” and made according to a “biodegradable formula.” In addition, Costco fills the products’ labels with imagery – such as icons resembling recycling symbols, water drops, and leaves, and a central image of a leaf floating in pristine water – that is highly suggestive of “green,” environmentally responsible products. The complaint alleges that, in truth, these products contain unnatural, harmful, and toxic chemical ingredients, including sodium hydroxide, sodium lauryl sulfate, lauramine oxide, and methylisothiazolinone. The complaint further alleges that, by deceiving consumers about the true nature of these products, Costco has been able to profit at the expense of consumers who seek environmentally friendly products and are willing to pay a premium for them. The Plaintiffs seek injunctive and monetary relief, including the removal of Costco’s misleading “environmentally responsible” representations from its products.
Gonzalez v. Costco Wholesale Corporation
Two consumers brought a class action lawsuit against Pfizer, Inc. for its deceptive marketing of “Total Hydration” ChapStick® products. The complaint alleges that Pfizer markets these ChapStick® products as “100% Natural,” despite the products containing an array of unnatural, synthetic chemicals, such as tocopheryl acetate, octyldodecanol, and caprylic/capric triglyceride. Reasonable consumers, the complaint alleges, would not expect to find such synthetic ingredients in a “100% Natural” product. Accordingly, Plaintiffs seek declaratory and monetary relief on behalf of the class.
Tyman, et al. v. Pfizer, Inc.
- Top Class Actions, 9/20/16 – “Chapstick Class Action Says Lip Balms Aren’t ‘100% Natural’”
- Legal NewsLine, 9/19/16 – “Pfizer hit with class action over Chapstick”
Breath DC, a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C., has brought suit against Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (collectively, the Defendants), for the deceptive marketing of their “Natural American Spirit” brand cigarettes as “Natural” and “Additive-Free.” Additionally, consumers from several states have brought class action suits on similar grounds and were subsequently consolidated into a Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) under consumer protection statutes in twelve states. Defendants sell a variety of cigarettes under the Natural American Spirit brand, all of which they prominently label and advertise with representations that the cigarettes are “Natural” and “Additive-Free.” Many products also use the term “Organic” on labels and advertisements. The complaint alleges that, by marketing Natural American Spirit cigarettes with these representations, Defendants deceive consumers into believing that these cigarettes present a lower risk of tobacco-related disease and/or are less harmful than other tobacco products. Unfortunately, as the complaint further alleges, Natural American Spirit cigarettes are not safer than other cigarettes, but actually contain higher levels of carcinogens and heavy metals, with levels of nicotine that make them at least as addictive as other cigarettes. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration recently sent a warning letter to Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company informing it that the use of descriptors like “Natural” and “Additive-Free” leads consumers to believe that such cigarettes pose less of a health risk than other cigarettes, when there is no scientific support for such a claim. It is additionally alleged that the company’s deceptive marketing of Natural American Spirit cigarettes has helped the brand increase sales by 86% from 2009 to 2014, as overall cigarette sales in the United States fell by 17% during the same period. Breathe DC seeks injunctive relief, including the removal and cessation of deceptive marketing practices, and the consumer plaintiffs in the MDL seek both injunctive and monetary relief, including statutory damages and restitution of ill-gotten gains.
In Re: Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company Marketing & Sales Practices Litigation and Sales Practices Litigation
Breath DC v. Sante Fe Natural Tobacco Company, Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and Reynolds American Inc.
- Bloomberg, 11/14/16 – “American Spirit’s Long, Strange Trip to Court”
A New Jersey consumer brought a class action lawsuit against Welch Foods, Inc. and the Promotion in Motion Companies, Inc., for their deceptive advertising of Welch’s Fruit Snacks. The complaint alleges that the defendants misleadingly label their Fruit Snacks with representations such as “Made With Real Fruit” and “Fruit Is Our 1st Ingredient,” despite the products consisting primarily of added sweeteners and artificial flavors. Defendants’ marketing, the complaint alleges, misleads consumers into believing that the candy-like Fruit Snacks are more healthful and nutritious than they actually are, creating the false impression that the Fruit Snacks offer the benefits of consuming actual fruit. The Plaintiff seeks declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief on behalf of the class.
Hall v. Welch Foods, Inc., et al.
- Top Class Actions, 6/9/17 – “Welch’s Fruit Snacks Class Action Challenges ‘Healthy’ Label Claims”
- Fortune, 9/25/15 – “Lawsuit alleges Welch’s Fruit Snacks are more candy than fruit”
- Slate, 9/25/15 – “Don’t Be Fooled Into Thinking Welch’s Fruit Snacks Are Any Healthier Than Candy”
- Food Navigator USA, 9/22/15 – “Welch’s fruit snacks are ‘no more healthful than candy’, says false advertising lawsuit”
Consumer plaintiffs in New York and California brought suits against The Honest Company® (Honest) alleging violation of consumer protection laws in the way that Honest marketed some of its personal care, household care, and baby care products as “natural,” “all natural,” “naturally derived,” “plant-based,” and as containing “no harsh chemicals (ever!).” The plaintiffs alleged that these products, contrary to the way Honest markets them, actually contain dozens of unnatural, synthetic chemicals. One of the synthetic ingredients found in some of Honest’s products is methylisothiazolinone, which is a contact allergen that has been linked to what is called an epidemic of painful skin allergies, including rashes, blistering, swelling, redness, and hives.
VICTORY: On December 8 , 2017 the court approved the final settlement, under which Honest created a class settlement fund of $7,300,000. The settlement requires Honest stop labeling the products at issue as “all natural” or “100% natural.” Honest is also prohibited from using the phrase “no harsh chemicals, ever!” in products that contain methylisothiazolinone or cocamidopropylamine oxide in an amount that is more than incidental. To the extent the labels describe a product as “natural,” “naturally derived,” “plant-based” and/or “plant-derived” Honest will define the term(s) on its website, taking into account the applicable regulatory or statutory requirements.
Plaintiffs brought suit against Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. (J&J) for making fraudulent “natural” claims on several of its Aveeno® Active Naturals skin moisturizers. The complaint alleged that the Active Naturals products contain dozens of harmful and synthetic chemicals, including glycerin, benzaldehyde, and phenoxyethanol, and that J&J failed to disclose the presence of these synthetic, unnatural ingredients on packaging or its website. Plaintiffs further alleged the deceptive marketing practices of J&J violated New York, California, and Florida consumer protection laws.
VICTORY: On November 1, 2017 the court approved the final settlement, under which J&J created a class settlement fund of $6,750,000, with any remaining funds to be donated to the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment. The settlement also required J&J to remove the term”Active Naturals” from the front label of all products. If the term “Active Naturals” remains on the back or side of the label and if a product is not comprised entirely of naturally-derived ingredients, J&J is required to include language on the back or side of the label indicating that product contains both naturally-derived and non-naturally-derived ingredients.
A consumer plaintiff brought suit against Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. (J&J) for deceptively marketing Bedtime Bath® and Bedtime Lotion® products as “clinically proven” to help babies sleep better. The suit alleged that the J&J knew that the products themselves were not “clinically proven” but were subjected to clinical tests only as part of a three-step routine of bath, massage, and quiet time outlined on the products’ bottles. The plaintiff sought damages for J&J’s alleged violations of New York’s consumer protection law.
VICTORY: On January 31, 2017 the court approved the final settlement, under which J&J created a $5,000,000 settlement fund, with any remaining funds to donated to the Nurse Family Partnership and Newborns in Need.
Plaintiffs brought suit against Lowe’s Home Center for unlawfully requesting and recording private information from customers who used a credit card at the point of purchase. The suit alleged that zip code collection was not relevant to the purchase (other than for shipping or delivery purposes) and therefor was a direct violation of Massachusetts Unfair Trade Practices Act.
VICTORY: On September 9, 2015, the Court approved a class action settlement. The terms of the settlement agreement included the establishment of a gift card fund by Lowe’s Home Center for $300,000, from which consumers would receive a gift card of $25, with any excess amount allocated to the charity Habitat for Humanity.
Plaintiffs brought suit against General Mills in connection with “natural” claims on the company’s Nature Valley granola bars. General Mills marketed its granola bars as “100% natural” even though they contain artificial ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup, high-maltose corn syrup, dextrose monohydrate, maltodextrin, soy protein isolate, or several other artificially produced ingredients. This suit was brought in conjunction with Center for Science in the Public Interest.
VICTORY: In November 2014, a settlement agreement was announced which prevents General Mills from claiming that its Nature Valley granola bars and similar products are “100% natural” if those products contain high-fructose corn syrup, high-maltose corny syrup, dextrose monohydrate, maltodextrin, soy protein isolate, or any other artificially produced ingredients.
In November 2012, plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against 7UP® manufacturer Dr Pepper Snapple Group, over deceptive antioxidant claims for several regular and diet 7UP® varieties. The labels of these products featured pictures of cherries, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries, and pomegranates. Despite the pictures of fruit on the labels, the drinks contained no fruit juice of any kind and were fortified with only a small amount of one antioxidant, vitamin E. One 12-ounce serving contained 9 teaspoons (38 grams) of sugar and 140 calories. The diet versions contained the artificial sweeteners aspartame and acesulfame potassium. The suit alleged that the “antioxidant” claims were misleading because they gave the impression that beneficial antioxidants were provided by the addition of healthy fruit juices. Additionally, the FDA discourages the fortification of nutritionally empty products like soda. This suit was brought in conjunction with Center for Science in the Public Interest.
VICTORY: In July 2013 Dr Pepper Snapple Group agreed to drop its deceptive antioxidant campaign, stop fortifying certain 7UP® soft drinks with vitamins, and they no longer claim the products have antioxidants.
Plaintiffs brought suit against General Mills regarding the false and deceptive packaging used for its Strawberry Naturally Flavored Fruit Roll-Ups® and other “fruit snacks.” The suit alleged that General Mills misled consumers about the nutritional and health qualities of its “fruit snacks,” and that Fruit Roll-Ups® snacks lacked any strawberries or significant amount of real fruit but were instead made mostly of sugars, artificial additives, and artificial dyes. This suit was brought in conjunction with Center for Science in the Public Interest.
VICTORY: In late 2012, General Mills agreed to improve its labeling for Strawberry Naturally Flavored Fruit Roll-Ups®. As long as Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups® contain no strawberries, the label will not carry any images of strawberries. General Mills also agreed to include the actual percentage of fruit in the product when making the claim, “Made with Real Fruit.”
Following the lead of other companies catering to the demand for environmentally friendly and safe cleaning products, SC Johnson – one of the largest consumer products companies in the world – created its own “green” seal, known as the Greenlist, and placed it on its existing Windex® glass cleaner, implying an environmental benefit similar to actual “green” cleaners on the market. Despite the new label, SC Johnson did not make any meaningful changes to the Windex® formulation or make the product “green” in any way. Plaintiffs brought this class action alleging that the Greenlist seal was completely fraudulent and misleading, and that Windex® provided no environmental benefit whatsoever, and in fact was harmful to children and wildlife.
VICTORY: In July 2011, SC Johnson announced it had agreed to stop using the Greenlist logo on Windex® products.