Two California residents who recently sued Trader Joe’s for allegedly misbranding certain foods by using “organic evaporated cane juice” on its product labels have filed a putative nationwide class action against a yogurt company with similar allegations. Gitson v. Clover-Stornetta Farms, Inc., No. 13-1517 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., San Francisco Div., filed April 4, 2013). Details about the Trader Joe’s lawsuit appear in Issue 477 of this Update.
The named plaintiffs contend that the defendant markets some 14 different flavors of its yogurt products, all of which list “organic evaporated cane juice” as an ingredient on their labels “in violation of a number of labeling regulations.” They cite Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance, warning letters and an open letter to demonstrate that use of this term for a yogurt sweetener is “illegal.”
The plaintiffs also target the company’s Websites for their alleged used of “illegal claims.” According to the complaint, they relied on “Defendant’s unlawful and deceptive misrepresentations on Defendant’s website before purchasing Defendant’s products.” Citing an FDA letter to the Washington Legal Foundation, the plaintiffs claim that “Defendant’s web address is printed on its package labels, and by law Defendant’s website misrepresentations are incorporated in its labels.” They also challenge “all natural” claims on the products, asserting that “locust bean gum, tapioca starch, elderberry juice (for color), and beet juice concentrate (for color)” are not natural ingredients. Calling the products “legally worthless,” the plaintiffs claim that they “paid a premium price for the misbranded food products.”
Seeking to certify a nationwide class of product purchasers or an alternative subclass of California consumers, the plaintiffs allege unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business acts and practices; misleading, deceptive and untrue advertising; violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act; and restitution based on unjust enrichment/quasi-contract. They request an order requiring the defendant to cease from selling these products and to engage in corrective action, damages, restitution, disgorgement, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, costs, and interest.