The Northern District of California Federal Court is turning into a scene from “Animal House” with fighting left and right. This is not the typical food fight we all know and remember, but a legal battle over labeling and healthy food choices. According to Contra Costa Times, “class-actions lawsuits have piled up […] targeting the food industry for misleading the public in labeling on everything from yogurt to potato chips – fueled by hungry lawyers and consumers with heartburn from browsing the grocery aisles.”
Two of the food’s that are at the center of the action: Hershey’s Kisses and Bumble Bee Tuna. Some are claiming that lawsuits are frivolous or “cookie-cutter”, William Stern, a San Francisco lawyer who is helping the food company said, “they all sound the same. And some of them are just laughable.” However, consumers and federal judges have a different opinion because efforts by the food companies to get the cases dismissed have been rejected.
This is an interesting take on the movement to create a healthier American public using the top-down approach. First Lady Michelle Obama has been a vocal proponent of creating a healthier lifestyle introducing a “federal healthy lunch program.” Letsmove.gov is also a resource the White House has unveiled to promote healthy eating and an active lifestyle. Legal expert, John Banzhaf, a Georgetown Law professor “favors the lawsuits, [he] believes the claims are a logical outgrowth of suits that target the industry for contributing to the nation’s obesity problem.”
But you have to ask yourself, are the lawsuits going to accomplish the end goal of creating more truthful labeling and healthier snacks? One food company must think so, last week PepsiCo. settled a case over their Naked Juice brand for $9 million over labeling the claimed the drink was “natural” even though it contained synthetic ingredients.
It is yet to be determined what the long-term effects this food war litigation will have on the health of our public, but certainly providing for more accurate labeling and data is a good step forward.
Wooten Kimbrough, P.A. Florida Food Poisoning Attorneys