I previously wrote about Thornton v. Pinnacle Foods Group LLC, No. 4:16-CV-00158-JAR, in which the Eastern District of Missouri refused to dismiss a consumer fraud claim based on “nothing artificial” labels on boxes of Duncan Hines muffin mix (see the blog post here). The day after the court issued its order in Thornton, a putative class action raising similar claims against the same defendant was filed in the Southern District of Illinois; the next day, another action was filed in the Northern District of California. Neither court has yet to issue any substantive orders, but motions to dismiss are pending in both actions.
It may be a while before either court addresses the viability of consumer fraud claims based on “nothing artificial” labels, however. On September 30, 2016, the Eastern District of Missouri stayed the Thornton action pending resolution of FDA proceedings to define the term “natural” on food labels. Although the claims at issue in Thornton involve “nothing artificial” labels, the court noted that the FDA defines “natural” in terms of what is not “artificial” and that the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Thus, the court reasoned that the FDA’s interpretation of “natural” will affect the claims at issue in that case.
Similar motions to stay have been filed in the Southern District of Illinois and the Northern District of California. It is yet to be seen whether those courts will follow the Eastern District of Missouri’s lead and stay the actions pending resolution of the FDA proceedings.
The cases are Clardy v. Pinnacle Food Group, LLC, No. 3:16-cv-04385-JST (N.D. Cal.), and Biffar v. Pinnacle Foods Group LLC, No. 3:16-cv-00873-DRH-SCW (S.D. Ill.).