A California federal court has allowed most of the claims to proceed in a lawsuit alleging that Marie Callendar’s baking mixes are labeled “all natural” despite containing the synthetic ingredient Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate. Musgrave v. ICC/Marie Callendar’s Gourmet Prods. Div., No. 14-2006 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., order entered February 5, 2015). The court dismissed the plaintiff’s request for an injunction and unjust enrichment claim but denied the food company’s motion to dismiss all other claims.
The court assessed each argument in the motion to dismiss in turn, finding first that the plaintiff’s claims were not preempted by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act or subject to the primary jurisdiction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It then discussed whether a reasonable consumer would be deceived by the term “natural” on the baking mixes. The court dismissed the food company’s argument that the plaintiff offered inconsistent meanings of “natural” because he did not need to “allege that every consumer shares the same definition of ‘all natural,’ only that a reasonable consumer could interpret these words to exclude synthetic compounds.” The court also accepted the plaintiff’s argument that the premium he paid for the “all natural” baking mixes was sufficient to be an economic injury.
The plaintiff also had standing to sue, even for those products he did not personally purchase, because whether he could properly represent the proposed class was an issue for the class certification stage. The court also preserved the breach of contract claim because the meaning of unambiguous or uncertain contract terms—”all natural”—should be determined at a later stage as well.