Texas and California residents have filed a putative class action against Whole Foods Market Services, Inc. in a Texas federal court, alleging that the company’s private label lines include falsely labeled additive-laden and genetically modified (GM) foods, despite promises that its products contain “nothing artificial” and that it enforces “strict quality standards.” Gedalia v. Whole Foods Mkt. Servs., Inc., No. 13-3517 (U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D. Tex., Houston Div., filed November 28, 2013). Among purported transgressions are (i) organic infant formula containing 25 ingredients “prohibited from being in organic foods” as well as 30 artificial ingredients, and (ii) organic soy and almond milk containing “ingredients not permitted in organic foods.”
The complaint also alleges that the company reneges on its promise to avoid ingredients grown from genetically engineered seed and relies on a Cornucopia Institute study purportedly showing that Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value® products “were contaminated with high levels of genetically engineered ingredients,” citing, in particular, the company’s Corn Flakes that allegedly contain“more than 50% genetically engineered corn. ”The plaintiffs further challenge the company’s claim that its products do not contain any of the ingredients on a publicly available “unacceptable ingredients for foods” list. Accordingto the complaint, many of the listed ingredients are in the company’s private label products. They further take issue with the company’s “natural” product representations.
Seeking to certify a nationwide class of consumers and state subclasses, the plaintiffs allege violation of the California Organic Products Act, Consumers Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law, and Unfair Competition Law; breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty of merchantability and warranty of fitness for particular purpose; deceit and/or misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment and constructive fraud in violation of common law and California statutory law; unjust enrichment; and negligence and negligent misrepresentation. They seek declaratory relief, restitution, disgorgement, attorney’s fees, costs, injunctive relief, and statutory and punitive damages.