Food Lawsuits Claiming “Addiction” Coming to a Courtroom Near You?

Cross-posted by Forbes.com at WLF’s Contributor Site

Plaintiffs’ lawyers and their activist allies have been working to turn “unhealthy” food and drink products into the “next tobacco.” Through high-stakes litigation, they pursue their dual goals of 1) regulating how such companies design, produce, and market their products and 2) transferring billions of dollars in hard-earned profits to lawyers’ and activists’ pockets.

These efforts have not borne fruit thus far. Plaintiffs’ advocates had high hopes when a suit alleging various theories of fraud, deception, false advertising, and other assorted misdeeds against McDonalds, Pellman v. McDonalds, was allowed to proceed early last decade. But last year, an appeals court denied the suit class action status. A plethora of class action consumer fraud suits, which claim false or misleading food/beverage marketing, have been filed in federal courts (see this section of WLF’s Eating Away Our Freedoms site). Those suits haven’t been rewarding for the plaintiffs’ bar to this point.

The fortunes of regulation-by-litigation practitioners could change dramatically, however, if the concept that certain foods or substances in foods are “addictive” catches on with the public and with policy-makers. Over the past several decades, the general concept of addiction has been dumbed-down and applied to behaviors and substances which at most are habit-forming, and which don’t lead to physical dependence, increasing tolerance, and withdrawal. A 2007 WLF Monograph provides an extensively documented explanation of this transformation and how politics and ideology fueled it. Continue reading “Food Lawsuits Claiming “Addiction” Coming to a Courtroom Near You?”

Court Empowers “Deceived” California Nutella Purchasers to Sue as a Class

On February 2, 2011, plaintiff Athena Hohenberg filed a complaint against Ferrero U.S.A. Inc. alleging that Ferrero untruthfully promoted its product – Nutella – as a healthful product.  According to Hohenberg, advertising language such as “An example of a tasty yet balanced breakfast,” and television commercials depicting “happy children” led her to feed Nutella to her family, including a four-year-old child.  Hohenberg made this complaint despite the fact that Nutella’s nutritional information and its ingredients are visibly and accurately listed on its packaging.  Hohenberg does not deny this.

Click here to see my original post on this complaint.

New Development (Class Certified)

After a failed motion to dismiss the complaint, focus shifted to certification of the class.  Plaintiff asked that the class be extended to all consumers of Nutella in the United States since January 2000.  Judge Marilyn Huff certified the class, but she limited it to California consumers who purchased Nutella after August 2009.  Continue reading “Court Empowers “Deceived” California Nutella Purchasers to Sue as a Class”