A federal court in California has denied the request of General Mills, Inc. to stay the proceedings in three putative class actions alleging that it misleads consumers by promoting various products as “100% Natural” given ingredients that are genetically modified or highly processed, such as high-fructose corn syrup, high-maltose corn syrup and maltodextrin. Rojas v. General Mills, Inc., No. 12-5099 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., order entered October 9, 2013); Bohac v. General Mills, Inc., No. 12-5280, and Janney v. General Mills, Inc., No. 12-3919 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., orders entered October 10, 2013).  

So ruling, the court rejected the defendant’s request that it apply the primary jurisdiction doctrine, finding that (i) the issue of whether a reasonable consumer would be misled by the company’s product promotions was within the court’s purview, and (ii) it did not appear the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was inclined to decide anytime soon what the term “natural” encompasses.  

In Rojas, the court granted in part the motion to dismiss as to claims regarding products the plaintiff did not purchase, because the elements of his fraudbased causes of action were not sufficiently pleaded as to these products. It also granted the motion as to causes of action based on advertising or the company’s Website because the plaintiff failed to identify anything other than what he read on the product labels. Still, the court granted the plaintiff leave to amend as to the causes of action dismissed. Additional details about this lawsuit appear in Issue 456 of this Update. Information about Janney, which was filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, appears in issues 448 and 484 of this Update.