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“All Natural” Litigation and Settlements on the Rise

Litigation surrounding “all natural” claims has been ramping up, and settlements are on the rise.

Naked Juice paid $9 million dollars to settle claims about the “all natural” branding of its juices in 2013.  As of February 6th, Trader Joe’s is following suit and plans to pay out $3.38 million dollars in addition to discontinuing the use of “all natural” and “100% natural” on products that include ascorbic acid, cocoa processed with alkali, sodium acid pyrophosphate, vegetable mono- and diglycerides, and xanthan gum.

The FDA’s failure to define “natural” is contributing to the flurry of “all natural” consumer class actions, and there is no sign that the FDA plans to provide a definition anytime soon.  On January 6, 2014 the FDA declined a request from three federal judges for clarification of the meaning “natural.”

With little guidance from the FDA, companies are trying to find their own ways of avoiding costly lawsuits.  For some, re-branding is the

Update: Canada Poised to Respond if COOL Requirements Stay As Is in the Farm Bill

A decision has not come down from the U.S. Court of Appeals regarding the USDA’s Country of Origin Labeling “COOL” law , but Canada is positioning itself to launch a trade-war with the United States just in case.

Earlier this week, the Farm Bill was passed by the House of Representatives and made its way to the Senate for approval.  A Senate vote is expected next week, but Canadians are not hopeful for an amicable settlement as the House did not make any substantive changes to the country of original labeling requirements.

Since 2008, when COOL was initially adopted, Canada has dissented, claiming that the it is far too costly and injures the meat industry.  Gerry Ritz and Ed Fast, Canada’s Federal Agriculture Minister and International Trade Minister made the following combined statement:

“By refusing to fix country-of-origin labelling, the U.S. is effectively legislating its own citizens out of

Gear Up for the FDA’s Menu Labeling Regulations

Gear Up for the FDA’s Menu Labeling Regulations

January 23, 2014

Authored by: Sara Ahmed and Brandon Neuschafer

The FDA’s highly anticipated proposed rules regarding menu labeling are set for release just around the corner, and businesses and elected officials are already reacting.

The proposed rules apply to chain restaurants, retail food establishments, and vending machines with 20 or more locations and require that menus be labeled with caloric information and that certain nutritional information be made readily available to patrons.

While some chain retailers applaud the idea of nationwide uniform labeling requirements for the sake of ease, others are concerned about the cost and efficacy of the proposed rules.

Domino’s CEO J. Patrick Doyle has been a dissonant voice in the debate since 2011.  Maine’s Senator Angus King is another critic, and joining him are both members of the Senate and House that have sponsored S. 1756 and H.R. 1249 , bills aimed at amending the FD&C Act.  Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, who supports the amendment, claims that the FDA’s proposed “one-size-fits-all

FDA To Further Amend Draft Rules Implementing FSMA

Yesterday, FDA Deputy Commissions for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, Michael Taylor, announced that FDA would further amend the draft rules on produce safety and preventive controls for human food, which were originally published in draft form in January 2013.  Acccording to Mr. Taylor’s statement:

[W]e believe that significant changes will be needed in key provisions of the two proposed rules affecting small and large farmers. These provisions include water quality standards and testing, standards for using raw manure and compost, certain provisions affecting mixed-use facilities, and procedures for withdrawing the qualified exemption for certain farms. We have heard the concern that these provisions, as proposed, would not fully achieve our goal of implementing the law in a way that improves public health protections while minimizing undue burden on farmers and other food producers.

As FDA considers the changes to be significant, it will once again accept comment only on

Are “Natural” Food Claims Whithering Away?

Despite recent victories by industry over “all natural” plaintiffs, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that some food companies are abandoning the “all natural” and similar claims in the face of mounting litigation and lack of clarity from FDA over the definition of “all natural” claims.  As reported in the Wall Street Journal, food and drinks labeled “natural” were responsible for $40 billion in retail sales in 2012.  However, “[o]nly 22.1% of food products and 34% of beverage products launched in the U.S. during the first half of 2013 claimed to be “natural,” down from 30.4% and 45.5%, respectively, in 2009 …. Though many Americans still want natural products, … only 47% view the claims as trustworthy.”

Washington State Voters Reject Mandatory GMO Labeling

In the first GMO labeling initiative since California voters rejected Prop 37 last November, voters once again rejected the mandatory labeling scheme.  The vote, which will likely end up being about 54% opposed and 46% in favor when certified, appears to have been heavily influenced by late campaigning from opponents.  Opponents spent about $22 million against the initiative while proponents spent about $8 million, although estimates are that only about 6% of the total amount spent came from in-state sources.

The defeat is a significant blow to proponents of mandatory GMO labeling who, with the exception of legislation passed in Connecticut that is largely contingent upon other states adopting similar laws before it is implemented, have had significant difficulty convincing voters and legislatures to adopt such initiatives. Trade groups, such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association, are looking to shift the conversation towards a “federal solution that will protect consumers by

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