The California Supreme Court has held that a consumer may sue Herb Thyme Farms, Inc. alleging its herbs are improperly labeled as “organic,” dismissing the farm’s contention that the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 blocks such claims. Quesada v. Herb Thyme Farms, Inc., No. S216305 (Cal., order entered December 3, 2015). Details about previous court rulings concluding that the federal law preempted the action appear in Issues 347 and 509 of this Update.

The court found that, contrary to the farm’s arguments, the federal statute does not prohibit consumers from seeking redress. “[T]he complaint here alleges Herb Thyme has engaged in fraud by intentionally labeling conventionally grown herbs as organic, thereby pocketing the additional premiums organic produce commands. The purposes and objectives underlying the Organic Foods Act do not suggest such suits are an obstacle; to the contrary, a core reason for the act was to create a clear standard for what production methods qualify as organic so that fraud could be more effectively stamped out and consumer confidence and fair market conditions promoted,” the court held.