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Year In Review: 2020 Food, Beverage & Supplement Litigation Round-Up

The global pandemic, stay at home orders, and government issued lockdowns did not stop 2020 from being yet another active year for new regulatory activity and litigation targeting the food, beverage and supplement industries.

In this round-up, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP presents a collection of regulatory developments, key court decisions, and notable settlements that were reached in 2020.

The highlights of this 2020 round-up include:

  • New federal and state legislation governing food labeling, packaging, and taxation
  • Litigation trends within the food industry
  • COVID-19 related litigation and regulation
  • An update on regulations and litigation regarding CBD-based products
  • Slack fill litigation update
  • Plant-based product litigation update
  • Prop 65 and food safety update
  • Notable rulings and settlements
  • A preview of areas to watch in 2021

U.S. FDA Relaxes Menu and Nutrition Facts Labeling Requirements in Response to Pandemic

April 9, 2020

Categories

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has temporarily relaxed some of its requirements concerning menu and nutrition labeling, and extended certain enforcement deadlines.

Menu Labeling

The FDA has announced that it “will not object” if, during this public health emergency, restaurants and retail food establishments do not meet menu labeling requirements requiring disclosure of calories and other nutritional information.

The FDA regulations  typically apply to restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, and offering for sale substantially the same menu items.

The FDA stated that this policy is intended to provide flexibility to restaurants and food establishments that may have to rapidly transition to take-out only or that are experiencing disruptions in their supply chains requiring substitutions. To provide further guidance, it

Year in Review: 2019 Food, Beverage and Supplement Litigation Roundup

2019 was another active year for new regulatory activity and litigation targeting the food, beverage, and supplement industries.

In this roundup, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP presents a collection of regulatory developments, key court decisions, and notable settlements that were reached in 2019 and early 2020.

The highlights of this 2019 roundup include:

  • New federal legislation governing food labeling.
  • New regulations and a burst of litigation regarding CBD-based products.
  • An update on slack fill litigation.
  • Notable rulings, trials, and settlements.
  • Prop 65 and food safety update.
  • A preview of areas to watch in 2020.

FDA Extends Enforcement of New Nutrition Facts Label Another 6 Months

Although January 1, 2020 was the deadline for many companies to implement the new Nutrition Facts label, the FDA states on its Industry Resources on the Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label web page that it will not take any enforcement actions for the first six months, or until after July 1, 2020.

The FDA initially set a general compliance date of July 2018. Manufacturers with annual food sales of less than $10 million were given an additional year to comply. In May 2018, the FDA extended those compliance dates “by approximately 1.5 years.”

The FDA has provided the following example illustrating what’s different about the new Nutrition Facts label:

Importantly, the new label requires:

  • Declarations for “added sugars” in grams and as a percentage of Daily Value

What Rules Will Govern Claims Relating to CBD in Food, Beverages and Supplements?

Within the last two months, three class action lawsuits have been filed in federal courts against companies that sell ingestible products containing cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant, alleging that the products contain significantly less CBD than advertised.  Sellers of other food and supplement products facing this type of claim regarding their non-CBD products’ content have successfully argued that such claims are preempted by the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and its implementing regulations.  But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved CBD as an ingestible ingredient, food or dietary supplement.  And while some states have followed the FDA’s lead, other states have legalized sales of ingestible, hemp-derived CBD products.  This can leave food, beverage, and supplement companies confused about what rules apply to CBD as an ingredient in ingestible products.

The first of the three class actions was filed on

FTC Warns Companies Against Advertising CBD Products as Treating or Curing Diseases

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has announced that it sent warning letters to three companies that sell “oils, tinctures, capsules, ‘gummies,’ and creams containing cannabidiol (CBD),” a chemical compound derived from the cannabis plant. The letters warn the companies, which have not been identified, that “it is illegal to advertise that a product can prevent, treat, or cure human disease without competent and reliable scientific evidence to support such claims.”

The FTC states that each company marketed its CBD products as being able to “treat or cure serious disease and health conditions,” such as relieving “’even the most agonizing pain’ better than prescription opioid painkillers,” or treating cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), fibromyalgia, cigarette addiction, colitis, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), stroke, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, traumatic brain injuries, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, and AIDS.

In the letters, the FTC urges the companies to review all

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