A California federal court has approved a settlement in a class action alleging that Trader Joe’s labels items with synthetic ingredients as “All Natural.” Larsen v. Trader Joe’s Co., No. 11-5188 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., order entered July 11, 2014). Trader Joe’s will pay $3.375 million to a settlement fund to compensate class members with a proof of purchase for all products and members without a proof of purchase for up to 10 items, with leftover funds to be distributed as products to class members at retail locations throughout the United States. Plaintiffs’ counsel will receive $950,000 of the fund.
In 2011, plaintiffs accused Trader Joe’s of labeling several of its food products as “All Natural” or “100% Natural” despite containing one or more synthetic ingredients, which they alleged constituted fraud and unlawful business practices under federal and California law. The parties attended three mediation sessions supervised by a retired judge, but they failed to reach an agreement in any of them; the judge then submitted his own settlement proposal, to which both parties agreed. Additional information on the case appears in Issue 415 of this Update.