A California federal court has dismissed without leave to amend several claims in a lawsuit alleging that Whole Foods Market fraudulently and misleadingly labeled its 365 Everyday Value ketchup, oatmeal and chicken broth as containing “evaporated cane juice” (ECJ) rather than “sugar.” Pratt v. Whole Food Mkt. Cal., Inc., No. 12-5652 (N.D. Cal., San Jose Div., order entered September 30, 2015).
The plaintiff alleged that because Whole Foods failed to use the most common name for the ingredient—as mandated by U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules—the products were misbranded and “cannot be legally sold, possessed, have no economic value, and are legally worthless.” The court first dismissed strict liability allegations, finding that the plaintiff sought to impose a requirement inconsistent with federal law. Turning to the plausibility of the plaintiff’s allegations, the court found his reliance claims contradictory because one claim required him to know nothing about ECJ while the other required him to know it was a sweetener. Neither allegation was plausibly pled, the court found. Accordingly, the court granted Whole Foods’ motion to dismiss the strict liability claims and ECJ claims.
The court allowed a misrepresentation claim about the use of artificial colors, flavors or preservatives in 365 Everyday Value Root Beer, Cola and Ginger Ale as well as Natural Italian Soda in green apple and blood orange flavors. Additional details about the case appear in Issue 519 of this Update.