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August 21, 2014 / Alexis Domb

Whole Foods Class Action Accuses Grocer of Mislabeling

class action lawsuit recently filed against Whole Foods asserts that the popular specialty food retailer is mislabeling products as “organic” or “all natural”—in spite of such products not meeting those standards—to trick consumers into paying premium prices.
Arkansas woman Connie Stafford is seeking damages on behalf of herself and any Arkansas resident who purchased the following products from Whole Foods: 365 Everyday Value Cola, 365 Everyday Value Ginger Ale, 365 Everyday Value Root Beer, 365 Everyday Value Organic Tomato Ketchup, or 365 Everyday Value Organic Chicken Broth. The complaint alleges violations of state consumer protection laws. (Connie Stafford v. Whole Foods Market California Inc., Case No. 14-cv-00420, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas).

The Whole Foods class action argues that those laws “recognize that the failure to disclose the presence of risk-increasing nutrients is deceptive because it conveys to consumers the impression that a food makes only positive contributions to a diet, or does not contain any nutrients at levels that raise the risk of diet-related diseases or health-related conditions.” The five products listed above feature labels with phrases like “organic” or “all natural.”

Despite those labels, however, Whole Foods’ store brand cola includes synthetic ingredients, such as caramel coloring and tartaric acid; the root beer and ginger ale both contain carbon dioxide and citric acid. According to the class action, Whole Foods designed its marketing campaign to increase sales of those products. The class action also contends that “a reasonable person would attach importance to the [mislabeling]…in determining whether to purchase the products at issue.”

Plaintiff Stafford’s lawsuit is only one of an increasing number of lawsuits being filed across the country where consumers seek monetary damages and an injunction on purportedly illegal terms on food and beverage labels, such as “all natural” and “organic.” Cases like the Whole Foods class action have been popping up in courts across the nation, and false advertising has become a hot-button issue, especially in California.

According to Food-NavigatorUSA.com, California federal judges have allowed class actions against companies like Blue Diamond and Dole to proceed. Moreover, a California judge recently granted final approval of $3.4 million settlement in a class action against Trader Joe’s.

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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