TUREK v. GENERAL MILLS (October 17, 2011)
Carolyn Turek brought suit against General Mills and Kellogg, alleging that the defendants' marketing of chewy bars violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. Specifically, she alleged that the defendants label the product as containing dietary fiber without disclosing that the principal fiber used in the product is processed and does not provide the normal benefits associated with fiber consumption. Judge Gettleman (N.D. Ill.) dismissed the suit for want of jurisdiction on the grounds that the action was preempted by federal law. Turek appeals.
In their opinion, Seventh Circuit Judges Cudahy, Posner, and Williams affirmed (but on different grounds). First of all, the Court noted that the case was not one of complete preemption, where federal law pervades a field such that no state law claim could exist. The statute at issue here, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, provides specifically that it preempts no state law unless it is expressly preempted by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Therefore, the Court stated, the district court had jurisdiction to hear the case on the merits. The FFDCA does prohibit states from imposing labeling requirements that are not identical to the federal requirements. Federal law does impose a labeling requirements on dietary fiber. The principal requirement is that a manufacturer state the amount of fiber in each serving. The chewy bars at issue meet all the federal labeling requirements. The labeling that plaintiff suggests is missing is not identical to the federal labeling requirements and thus barred by federal law. Plaintiff's claim should have been dismissed for failure to state a claim, rather than for want of jurisdiction.