A federal court in Illinois has dismissed a putative class action filed against a nutritional supplement company by a Muslim woman who alleged that the company misled consumers by failing to disclose that some of its products contain an animal-based product. Lateef v. Pharmavite LLC, No. 12C5611 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Ill., E. Div., decided October 24, 2012). The court found the consumer-fraud claim preempted and determined that the named plaintiff lacked standing to rely on allegations relating to the company’s Web-based advertising because she did not visit the Website before purchasing the product. The plaintiff also abandoned her federal law-based claim.
According to the court, the plaintiff has dietary restrictions that prohibit her from eating certain animal-based food products such as pork. She allegedly purchased the defendant’s Nature Made® Vitamin D tablets after carefully reading the product label to ensure it did not contain animal byproducts. Her complaint alleges that the tablets were coated with gelatin, which “is manufactured in part with extracts from animal byproducts: specifically from cattle, chicken, and pigs.” The plaintiff quoted statements from the company’s Website indicating that “what is on the label is in the bottle” and other purported indicia of trustworthiness. She alleged violation of the state’s consumer fraud statute, breach of express warranty, unjust enrichment, and violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.
The defendant argued that federal law exempts it from listing gelatin as an ingredient on its labels because the law exempts the labeling of “incidental additives,” extracts from food sources that have “no technical or functional effect,” and are present at “insignificant levels.” The plaintiff evidently agreed that her labeling claims are preempted but contended that she “seeks only to enjoin Pharmavite ‘from falsely advertising that consumers can trust that [Pharmavite] identifies every ingredient on a Supplement’s label.’” The court disagreed, finding that the focus of her complaint was the product label, and since she admitted that her label-related claims were preempted, the court dismissed the consumer-fraud claim. The remaining state law-based claims were dismissed for lack of standing.