A federal court in California has issued an order preliminarily certifying a nationwide class for settlement purposes and approved the class settlement in a case alleging that Barbara’s Bakery misled consumers by labeling its products as “all natural” with “no artificial additives,” “no artificial preservatives,” or “no artificial flavors,” when they contained genetically modified (GM), artificial or synthetic ingredients. Trammell v. Barbara’s Bakery, Inc., No. 12-2664 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., order filed June 26, 2013). Under the proposed terms, the company would create a $4-million non-revertible fund to pay class member claims, an incentive award for the named plaintiff, attorney’s fees, and costs of notice and administration.
Class members would able to recover up to $100 for the purchase of products including cereals, cereal bars, cheese puffs, fig bars, granola bars, Snackanimal ® animal cookies, organic mini-cookies, snack mixes, and crackers. The settlement would also require the company to modify the labeling and advertising of its products and prohibit it from using similar proscribed labeling on any of its products with GM, artificial or synthetic ingredients. The company, which has apparently removed GM ingredients from 31 of its products, will be able to include a Non-GMO Project Seal on product labels when it complies with the project’s product verification program. According to the plaintiffs, these “non-monetary components” of the settlement will cost the company some $1.1 million to implement and cost it an additional $1.2 million annually. None of these costs will be paid from the settlement fund.
Attorney’s fees would be capped at 25 percent of the fund and any residual funds would be distributed to the Consumers Union of the United States and Action for Healthy Kids. The plaintiffs contend that the work of these organizations is related to the claims and benefits the class. The court has scheduled a fairness hearing for November 8, 2013. According to a news source, the court declined to issue an injunction to stay a similar action pending in a New York federal court, questioning whether this would be an appropriate use of its power. The court also apparently declined to stay similar state-court proceedings in California, citing a lack of authority. See Law360, June 21, 2013.