Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have authored an overview of litigation and governmental actions related to health claims on food and beverages marketed to children. Lainie Rutkow, et al., “Legal Action Against Health Claims on Foods and Beverages Marketed to Youth,” American Journal of Public Health, March 2015. By identifying 115 instances of legal action—including consumer class actions and governmental warnings—the authors review “lessons learned for policymakers, practitioners, and other stakeholders seeking to limit the untruthful or misleading marketing of foods and beverages to children.”

Those looking to challenge health claims “should first determine whether scientific evidence supports the claim,” the researchers said. In addition, plaintiffs should be selected carefully, they recommend, noting that they “may prefer, if possible, to bring a lawsuit in a state such as California, which has a well-developed body of law about deceptive and misleading advertising and marketing.” In addition, “it is critical to identify health claims for which legal action holds the greatest potential for public health impact,” the researchers argue, citing Ferrero SpA’s changes in advertising practices resulting from litigation against Nutella as a “public health success.” However, “most litigation will not yield similar results as a result of the nature of the allegedly deceptive claim, the success of defendants’ motions to dismiss, or financial limitations among plaintiffs to continue pursuing the case.”