Three California residents have filed a putative class action against food retailer Trader Joe’s in federal court, alleging three different types of misleading labeling claims: using the terms “evaporated cane juice” or “organic evaporated cane juice,” identifying as “natural” or “no added coloring or preservatives” foods that contain added preservatives and artificial colors, and representing non-dairy calcium products as “milk.” Gitson v. Trader Joe’s Co., No. 13-1333 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., San Francisco Div., filed March 25, 2013). The plaintiffs claim that the company’s “labeling, advertising and marketing as alleged herein are false and misleading and were designed to increase sales of the products at issue. Defendant’s misrepresentations are part of an extensive labeling, advertising and marketing campaign, and a reasonable person would attach importance to Defendant’s misrepresentations in determining whether to purchase the products at issue.”
The complaint outlines the applicable Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations that the defendant allegedly violated, noting that California and federal law are identical as to these issues. It also cites FDA guidance and warning letters pertaining to similar products. Seeking to certify a nationwide class of product purchasers, or an alternative statewide class, the plaintiffs allege unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business acts and practices; misleading, deceptive and untrue advertising; violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act; and restitution based on unjust enrichment or quasi-contract. They request an order requiring Trader Joe’s to immediately stop selling misbranded food products and to engage in corrective action, as well as damages, restitution, disgorgement, punitive damages, equitable remedies, attorney’s fees, costs, and interest.