A California federal court has dismissed a proposed class action against Nestlé USA, Inc. alleging that its Coffee-mate creamer products are mislabeled because they include partially hydrogenated oil (PHO), which contains trans fat, despite listing “0g Trans Fat” on its labels. Backus v. Nestlé USA, Inc., No. 15-1963 (N.D. Cal., order entered March 8, 2016).
The court first agreed with Nestlé’s argument that the plaintiff’s three use claims—those arguing that the company’s use of PHO makes it liable for damages to consumers—were preempted by the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) compliance schedule for removing trans fat from food by June 18, 2018.
The court then turned to the labeling claims, which Nestlé also argued were preempted by the FDCA, as amended by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, which established that a company must list the trans fat content of a product as zero grams if the true content is less than one-half of a gram. The court agreed, distinguishing the “0g Trans Fat” labeling claim from the claim in a similar case, in which the defendants were held liable for damages for the claim that their product contained “No Trans Fat.” “In the context of the FDA’s regulations, the word ‘No’ has no meaning beyond its ordinary, dictionary definition, i.e., ‘not any,’ and ‘No’ cannot be used to list trans fat content in the nutrition box,” the court found. “In contrast, ‘0g Trans Fat’ is explicitly defined as any quantity less than 0.5 gram, and, as discussed above, is a rounded value whose use in the nutrition box is mandated by the FDA.” Accordingly, the court dismissed the use and labeling claims, granting Nestlé’s motion to dismiss the case.