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August 1, 2014 / Alexis Domb

Settlement Finalized in Trader Joe’s ‘All Natural’ Class Action

On July 11, a federal judge in California granted final approval of a $3.4 million settlement in the class action lawsuit accusing Trader Joe’s Co. of falsely advertising some of its products as “All Natural” when, in fact, those products contained artificial ingredients. (Tamar Davis Larsen, et al. v. Trader Joe’s Co., Case No. 3:11-cv-05188-WHO, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California).

According to the complaint, the products at issue include Joe-Joe’s Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies, Joe-Joe’s Chocolate Sandwich Creme Cookies, Trader Joe’s Fresh Pressed Apple Juice, Trader Joe’s Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls, Trader Joe’s Crescent Rolls, Trader Joe’s Buttermilk Biscuits, Trader Joe’s Fruit Jellies, and Trader Giotto’s “100% Natural” Fat-Free Ricotta Cheese.

The class action asserted that Trader Joe’s falsely labeled such products as “All Natural” or “100% Natural” even though they contained synthetic ingredients, such as xanthan gum and sodium acid pyrophosphate. In the complaint, plaintiffs rely on the United States Food and Drug Administration’s statement that a product is not “natural” if it contains color additives, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

California residents Tamar Davis Larsen and Aran Eisenstat brought the suit on behalf of tens of thousands of customers who purchased Trader Joe’s products allegedly falsely labeled as “All Natural” or “100% Natural” from October 2007 to present.

The suit asserted claims for common law fraud; unjust enrichment; unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent business practice in violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law; false advertising; and violation of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act.

Trader Joe’s denied all claims but agreed to the settlement, which was granted preliminary approval by U.S. District Judge William Orrick in February. Judge Orrick recently gave final approval, finding that the terms are fair, reasonable and adequate.

Under the terms of the settlement, Trader Joe’s has agreed to stop using the disputed labels on the products unless they are reformulated or the law is altered such that the use of “All Natural” or “100% Natural” would not be false or misleading. Each class member with proof of purpose can be fully reimbursed for each product purchased since October 2007. Class members without proof of purchase will be entitled to receive reimbursement for up to ten products. If there are remaining settlement funds, those funds will be distributed to class members in the form of products at Trader Joe’s grocery stores througout the country.

If you or someone you know has suffered injuries as a result of false or misleading advertising, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

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