Saturday, April 11, 2009

Litigation Forces Changes to Food Marketing

A recent Wall Street Journal article observed that consumer packaged goods manufacturers' marketing practices have been affected by recent litigation trends:

"As Americans have grown more health-conscious, the country has seen a surge in litigation against food companies for allegedly selling unhealthy products and for misrepresenting their products' nutritional value.

In the wake of litigation -- or the threat of it -- some food distributors in recent years have adopted a host of health-promoting steps, like reducing their use of trans fats, limiting marketing of sugary, high-calorie products to children, and toning down boasts about their products' nutritional value."

The lawsuits have not always been successful. For example, a lawsuit alleging that Aquafina's falsely created the impression that the water comes from a mountain spring was dismissed last year. And lawsuits seeking large damages for allegedly causing obesity have been generally unsuccessful, partly because of the difficulty of proving causation.

Recent lawsuits include claims against Coca-Cola for alleged misrepresentations about the nutritional value of VitaminWater, and for allegedly making unsubstantiated claims about calorie-burning properties of Enviga green tea, and a case against Gerber for putting images of a variety of fruits on its Fruit Juice Snacks, even though the fruits were not included in the product.

While plaintiffs' lawyers characterize their lawsuits as a mission about truth in advertising, defense attorneys complaint about the paternalistic approach of the lawsuits, and argue that regulation by the Food and Drug Administration should preempt such lawsuits.

The WSJ Law Blog summarized the article here, and the Consumer Law & Policy blog here.


The Law Firm of Kotchen & Low LLP - Civil Litigation, Counseling, and Representation Before Government Agencies

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