A California federal court has dismissed claims challenging the trans fats labeling of Nissin Foods Co. Inc.’s Cup Noodles® but allowed to continue allegations that the use of partially hydrogenated oil (PHO) violates California law. Guttmann v. Nissin Foods (U.S.A.) Co., Inc., No. 15-0567 (N.D. Cal., order entered July 15, 2015). The plaintiff challenged the Cup Noodles label, which indicated that the product contained “Trans Fat: 0g,” despite including PHO among its ingredients. Nissin argued that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) dictates that the nutritional panel lists an ingredient as zero grams if its actual content is less than one-half of a gram, and Nissin’s compliance with that mandate could not create misleading labels.
The court looked to a 2010 case with the same plaintiff challenging Quaker Oats Co.’s label on similar grounds. According to the court, the decision in that case determined that “if the FDA had decided there was ‘no nutritional difference’ between the rounded and unrounded values in the context of reference claims, use of the unrounded value could not be misleading when used as an express nutrient-content claim. Because that label was not misleading, any state-law claim based on that label would establish requirements that were inconsistent with [federal law]. Such claims were expressly preempted by [the statute],” the court said. “So too here.” Accordingly, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims related to mislabeling.
The court then assessed the plaintiff’s allegations “that Nissin violated California law by including such a poisonous ingredient as artificial trans-fat in its noodles.” The court found that the plaintiff alleged “in great detail the serious harm artificial trans-fat poses to public health,” and further alleged that “the only utility in the use of partially-hydrogenated oils, as opposed to oils that do not contain artificial trans-fat, is that partially-hydrogenated oils are less expensive.” These allegations were sufficiently pled, the court found, so it denied Nissin’s motions to dismiss the claims related to the use of trans fat.