A California resident has filed a putative class action against ConAgra Foods alleging that the company misrepresents its Wesson cooking oils by marketing them as “100% Natural,” when they contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients. Briseño v. ConAgra Foods, Inc., No. 11-05379 (U.S. Dist. Ct., C.D. Cal., filed June 28, 2011). Seeking to certify a nationwide class of consumers, the plaintiff alleges false and misleading advertising, unfair and deceptive business practices, violation of California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act, and breach of express warranty. Alleging that he did not get the benefit of his bargain in purchasing Wesson oils, the plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory damages, restitution, disgorgement, attorney’s fees, and costs.
Among other matters, the complaint alleges that ConAgra discusses GM food crops on its corporate Website, noting that its customers will ultimately “decide what is acceptable in the marketplace [as to bioengineered foods] based on the best science and public information available. We will continue to listen carefully to our customers and consumers on biotechnology and provide alternatives for those who demand products without biotechnology ingredients.” According to the plaintiff, “ConAgra’s Wesson Oils’ advertising robs consumers of the ability to make an informed decision because they are told that Wesson Oils are ‘100% Natural.’ Further, reasonable consumers told that Wesson Oils are ‘100% Natural’ have no reason to ‘demand products without biotechnology ingredients’—the ‘natural’ designation represents to consumers that they are getting biotech-free food.”