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California Amends Slack Fill Law

California Amends Slack Fill Law

October 3, 2018

Authored by: Bob Boone and Sarah Burwick

Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law Assembly Bill 2632, which amended California’s slack fill statute to create several exemptions.  This amendment will be an additional hurdle to the plaintiff bar, which has been flooding the courts with slack fill related lawsuits in recent years.  These lawsuits, typically filed as class actions, allege that product packaging is misleading to the extent it contains nonfunctional empty space, known as slack fill, which causes consumers to believe they are receiving more of the product than they actually are.

The new law, which will amend California Business and Professions Code Sections 12606 and 12606.2, includes the following key changes:

  • The amended law exempts packaging sold in a mode of commerce that “does not allow the consumer to view or handle the physical container or product.” It could be argued that this exempts online sales.
  • The amended law exempts product packaging that clearly

End of the Road for Mike and Ike Slack Fill Litigation

In another victory for a candy manufacturer, a federal court in Missouri denied class certification earlier this month, effectively ending the plaintiff’s attempt to seek damages on a class-wide basis for all consumers of Hot Tamales and Mike and Ike candies.

The lawsuit, White v. Just Born, alleged that boxes of the candy were underfilled, leaving unusable empty space, known as “slack fill,” that deceived the consumer into thinking he was receiving more candy than was actually in the package.  The plaintiff sought certification of a Missouri class, and two multi-state unjust enrichment classes, on the theory that the actual value of the candy was less than the consumers paid for it.

The court declined to certify all three classes, ruling that proving class-wide violation of Missouri’s Merchandising Practices Act “will involve predominantly individual inquiries as to whether each class member purchased the candy.” Because most consumers purchase this type

Slack Fill Class Actions Continue to Flood The Courts

As we reported last year, slack fill litigation remains on the rise.  Plaintiffs continue to file consumer lawsuits – typically putative class actions – alleging food packaging is deceptive because it contains empty space, or nonfunctional slack fill, and disguises the amount of product in the package.

This roundup of recent decisions demonstrates that more plaintiffs are getting past early pleading challenges but likely will face significant barriers to success at summary judgment and class certification.

On February 16, 2018, a Missouri federal district court denied Nestlé’s motion to dismiss in Hawkins v. Nestlé USA, Inc., No. 4:17CV205 -HEA, 2018 WL 926130 (W.D. Mo. Feb. 16, 2018) challenging allegations that boxes of Raisinets candy contain 45% nonfunctional slack fill. In its motion to dismiss, Nestlé argued that a reasonable consumer would instantly realize the package was half-empty because of its “maraca-like rattle.” Id. at *5. The court rejected this

Beware the Empty Space – Defending Food Packaging Design Against Slack Fill Claims

April 3, 2017

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There is a recent proliferation of slack fill litigation involving food products – both class and non-class suits. If you are a food manufacturer, distributor or seller, you need to be prepared to deal with these claims. A good starting point, particularly for manufacturers, is to analyze your food packaging designs to determine if and how you can defend them in court, and if not, how you can change your packaging to mitigate your risk against slack fill claims while also preserving the success of your brand. Successful slack fill claims can impose considerable risk, from injunctive relief that disrupts distribution and sales, including product recalls, to the often enormous expense of package design overhauls, which may require you to start all over your branding efforts, to the disgorgement of revenues from sales of violating products.

Slack fill is the difference between the actual capacity of a container and the

Prop 65 Developments – Notices of Violation for BPA in Receipts and Containers and OEHHA’s Listing of Styrene and Pesticides

Bryan Cave attorney Merrit Jones recently published two client alerts regarding California’s Prop 65 that impact the food and agriculture industries.

The first alert relates to the bisphenol-A (BPA) listing that took effect on May 11, 2016.  Already, two notices of violation have been served alleging harmful exposure to the chemical without providing a warning. One notice alleges BPA in receipt paper, and another alleges BPA in plastic water cooler jugs.  BPA is believed to be present in a wide variety of plastic consumer products, including many reusable food and drink containers, as well as in the epoxy lining in most canned food and beverage containers.  OEHHA has adopted an emergency regulation authorizing temporary point-of-sale warnings for exposure to BPA from canned and bottled food and beverages. That regulation is expected to remain in effect for more than a year in order to allow manufacturers time to implement alternatives

The FDA Dishes Out Food Label Changes

The current food label will soon be no more. After two decades, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just finalized the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods. Making it easier for consumers to make better informed food choices, the FDA announced that the changes are based a combination of public input, updated scientific information, new nutrition and public health research, and more recent dietary recommendations from expert groups.

For more information on the label changes from the Bryan Cave Food and Beverage Industry Team, see this client alert.

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