WASHINGTON, D.C. The Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) this week urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to require plaintiffs filing lawsuits challenging food labeling accuracy to establish that they have Astanding@ to sue. In a brief filed in Kane v. Chobani, Inc., WLF argued that Astanding@ requires plaintiffs to establish that they purchased the food in reliance on the labeling statement they assert is misleading, yet in this as in many similar cases the plaintiffs could not possibly have relied on their idiosyncratic reading of the label.
The plaintiffs here allege that they purchased Chobani yogurt after reading on the label that the product contained Aonly natural ingredients@; the label also listed Aevaporated cane juice@ as one of the ingredients. The plaintiffs allege that the Anatural@ claim was false because the yogurt contained fruit and vegetable juice concentrate to add color. They also allege that the ingredients list was misleading: the label should have used the term Adried cane syrup@ instead of Aevaporated cane juice@ to more accurately describe the added sugars in the yogurt.
WLF argued that the plaintiffs could not possibly have relied on the two cited label provisions in their purchase decisions, given that: (1) the label explicitly stated that the yogurt contained color additives; and (2) Aevaporated cane juice@ is a commonly used term to describe added sugars.
Following its filing, WLF issued the following statement by Chief Counsel Richard Samp: AIt is time to bring a halt to the deluge of food mislabeling claims being filed by plaintiffs= lawyers under California=s Unfair Competition Law. California voters in 2004 adopted Proposition 64 precisely because they wanted to bring an end to abusive suits filed by individuals uninjured by the business practices to which they object. Yet, in virtually all the hundreds of pending food labeling suits, there is no evidence that the plaintiffs have been injured.@
WLF is a public interest law firm and policy center that devotes a substantial portion of resources to litigating in support of tort reform.