• Welch Foods Inc. (“Welch”) is seeking preliminary approval for a nationwide settlement of a class action lawsuit filed in US District Court for the Northern District of California by plaintiff Curtis Hansen in March of 2020. Hansen alleged that the company falsely represented that its grape juice products, which contain a substantial amount of sugar, support heart health. The proposed settlement includes a $1.5M payout to class members who purchased the Welch’s grape juice products since March 23, 2016. In addition to the class payout, the settlement includes agreement for Welch’s to refrain from using heart healthy claims on some of its grape juice products for two years.
  • This is not the first time Welch’s has been the subject of litigation surrounding its heart health claims. A 2013 suit in the US District Court for the Central District of California challenged the company’s claim that its 100% grape juice “Helps support a healthy heart.” Heart health claims made about cereal and snack products have been similarly targeted.
  • These and similar lawsuits challenge so-called structure function claims about the role of the advertised food in supporting or promoting heart health. Unlike health claims, which associate a food or food ingredient with reduction of risk of a disease or health related condition, the Food and Drug Administration does not need to approve structure function claims, leaving them vulnerable to such class action challenges for their alleged false or misleading implications.
  • Keller and Heckman will continue to monitor and report on this and similar litigation outcomes.