A California appeals court has affirmed the dismissal with prejudice of a putative class action alleging that Kroger Corp. misled consumers by failing to comply with federal and state law requirements for labeling its Challenge® spreadable butter products. Simpson v. The Kroger Corp., No. B242405 (Cal. App. Ct., decided September 25, 2013).
The court found that the labeling requirements of the state Milk and Milk Products Act of 1947 were not identical to federal labeling requirements, and thus claims based on the Act were preempted. And while the court found that the plaintiff’s mislabeling claims under the state Sherman Food, Drug and Cosmetic Law were not preempted, it ruled that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying leave to amend the complaint, because “as a matter of law, plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that a reasonable consumer would be misled by the labels on the products.”
Noting that the plaintiff’s theories shifted from the original complaint to the amended complaint and the over the course of appellate briefing, the court detailed the various federal and state labeling laws and showed how they either differ or are the same. It also described how the labels clearly state that the products are “Spreadable Butter with Canola Oil” or “Spreadable Butter with Canola & Olive Oil.” The court further observed that the oil ingredients are included in the ingredients list on the nutrition panel. Thus, the court concluded, “The labels on the products here clearly informed any reasonable consumer that the products contain both butter and canola or olive oil. This was plain on both the top and side panels of the tubs in which the products are sold.”