A California federal court has dismissed several of the plaintiffs’ claims in a putative class action accusing Frito-Lay North America Inc. of mislabeling its Rold Gold pretzels as “low fat,”“fat free” or “all-natural” despite allegedly containing high sodium levels and unnatural ingredients. Figy v. Frito-Lay North America Inc., No. 13-3988 (u.s. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., order entered August 12, 2014). The court found that the plaintiffs had standing to sue on behalf of purchasers of several non-purchased products because Frito-Lay’s health claims were the same for each and the only difference was the shape of the pretzel products.
The court then dismissed several of the plaintiffs’ claims. It found that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction to grant injunctive relief because Frito- Lay had triggered the plaintiffs’ obligation to prove jurisdiction by submitting declarations and extrinsic evidence of the plaintiffs’ lack of standing to seek an injunction, and the plaintiffs had then failed to present any evidence on the subject. The claims were dismissed with leave to amend. The court also dismissed the plaintiffs’ class claims for a California subclass with prejudice— the plaintiffs could not bring claims on behalf of California purchasers who were not residents—and for all other class claims without prejudice.
Turning to substantive issues, the court dismissed the plaintiffs’ misbranding claims because they failed to show that they relied on the alleged misrepre- sentation to purchase the product but instead relied on the assumption that the products were sellable. The plaintiffs’ claims that the “all-natural” label was misleading were also dismissed for a failure to offer “more than conclusory assertions that the ingredients they complain of are unnatural. It is insufficient under Rule 9(b) to simply assert, no matter how foreign or synthetic-sounding an ingredient’s name might be, that an ingredient is unnatural.”The court granted the plaintiffs leave to amend the claims.
The plaintiffs also contended that the product labels led them to believe that the products did not contain any nutrients at unhealthful levels, but the court dismissed this argument. “It is utterly implausible that Plaintiffs or reasonable consumers would see an undisputedly true statement about fat and then draw conclusions about other totally unrelated nutritional characteristics like sodium content or conclude the Products ‘made only positive contributions to a diet.’”The claims were dismissed with leave to amend.