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February 4, 2014 / JH

Gerber: Class Action Taking Baby Steps to Certification

A California federal judge recently refused to dismiss a putative class action lawsuit alleging that Gerber Products mislabels its baby food products.  U.S. District Court Judge Lucy H. Koh denied Gerber’s motion to dismiss the class action, but dismissed some of the class claims.

The class, led by California resident Natalia Bruton, alleges Gerber labeled baby food products as an “Excellent” and “Good” source of vitamins and minerals.  The labels also state Gerber’s products are “Healthy” for growth and immune support with “No Added Sugar.”

Bruton claims that federal law restricts companies making nutritional, sugar content, or health claims for food products targeted for children under the age of two.  Addressing this claim, Judge Koh stated that Bruton must be more specific about how Gerber violated federal law.

“In the absence of any federal regulatory authority that imposes upon Gerber a duty to disclose its own labeling misstatements, the Court concludes that Bruton is attempting to impose a labeling requirement that is not identical to federal requirements,” said Koh.

Bruton’s claim for violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”), however, survived Gerber’s motion.

Judge Koh explained that food misbranding cases require actual reliance and injury “to establish statutory standing under the UCL’s “unlawful” prong whenever the underlying alleged misconduct is deceptive or fraudulent.”  Because Bruton adequately plead injury and reliance, she may proceed with the prosecution of her UCL claim.

Gerber products at issue include Gerber Nature Select, Gerber Yogurt Blends, Gerber Graduates Fruit, Gerber Organic SmartNourish, Gerber Organic SmartNourish, and Gerber Single Grain Cereals brands.  Judge Koh removed some products from the class action’s original lawsuit because they were not similar enough to the products purchased by Bruton.

The Gerber Class Action is being litigated in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.  See Bruton v. Gerber Products Co., et al., Case No. 5:12-cv-02412.

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