A California federal court has dismissed a putative class action alleging Nestlé USA Inc. violates state laws about notifying consumers of products sourced from forced labor because of Nestlé’s partnership with a company accused of using slave labor to catch and supply its fish. Barber v. Nestlé USA Inc., No. 15-1364 (C.D. Cal., order entered December 9, 2015). The plaintiffs asserted that some of Nestlé’s Fancy Feast® cat food products include fish supplied by Thai Union Frozen Products, which acknowledges that some of its smaller fishing boats use forced labor, but “it is virtually impossible to say how pervasive the problem is,” according to the court.
Nestlé argued the plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the safe harbor doctrine created by the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010, which “requires any retailer who does business in California and has annual worldwide gross receipts exceeding $100 million to make specific disclosures on its website about efforts it makes to ‘eradicate slavery and human trafficking from its direct supply chain.’” In passing this statute, Nestlé argued, the legislature already considered whether additional related disclosures beyond those mandated by the act could subject companies to liability under other laws. The court examined precedent and the act’s legislative history to determine that California’s legislature had adequately considered the disclosures and decided against requiring them. Accordingly, the court granted Nestlé’s motion to dismiss with prejudice.