Ninth Circuit dismisses consumer claim over misleading labeling of poultry products – Consumer protection


United States: Ninth Circuit Rejects Consumer Claim Regarding Misleading Labeling of Poultry Products

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On June 4, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the dismissal of an alleged consumer class action lawsuit in state law claiming that the chicken products marketed by Trade Joe’s were mislabeled.
Webb v. Trader Joe’s Co., ___ F.3d ___, n ° 19-56389 (9th Cir. June 4, 2021). The labels indicated that the products contained “[u]p at 5% retained water “, but the applicant claimed that an independent laboratory test had shown that the products” contained an average of 9% retained water. “were preempted by the Federal Inspection Act of Poultry Products (PPIA), 21 USC § 467e.

Poultry tags are regulated by the PPIA. This law prevails over any claim of state law regarding regulated labels that would impose “additional or different” requirements already required by federal law.
Username. The US Department of Agriculture, through its Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), administers the labeling approval program.

As required by the PPIA, the Respondent made its water retention protocol available to FSIS, which made no objection. Therefore, the Ninth Circuit explained, “[t]This constitutes federal approval of the Trade Joe protocol, as one of the purposes of FSIS’s regulatory review opportunity is to confirm “that the data supports the water retention claims on product labeling.” the lab hired by the claimant apparently found 9% retained water to be irrelevant as there was no evidence that the lab used the same protocol as Trader Joe’s. Maintaining the defendant at a standard of 9% would have been a different requirement than that required by federal law.

Preemption followed for the additional reason that FSIS had also reviewed the offending labels. Here, the labels contained both a general statement (the retained water content) as well as special statements such as “never antibiotics”, “no hormones added” and “all fed to vegetarians”. Such special declarations require FSIS to review the entire label, which means that FSIS’s review of the special declarations was also a review (and approval) of the retained water content declaration. Brief op. at 13-14.

The PPIA not only anticipated the complainant’s claims under the California Unfair Competition Act, Fraudulent Advertising Act, and Consumer Legal Remedies Act, but also her claims under the law. state for breach of warranty, theft under false pretext and unjust enrichment.

The outcome of this case sets a useful precedent for companies in the animal protein industry that market products that may be the subject of claims under the California consumer laws that were involved in this case. UCL’s litigation in the Ninth Circuit courts is prolific. It is a familiar tactic of animal activists to challenge consumer law labels on food products that relate to methods used in the breeding or processing of animals (eg, “humane” etc.) to what activists claim the standards should be. In reality, it often has nothing to do with what the label says and everything to do with the animal being raised for human consumption. As the
Webb The case shows, however, that preemption can overcome these tactics. If a label has been submitted to the PPIA process described above, claims of state law that impose additional or different requirements cannot be pursued.

Warning: This alert has been prepared and posted for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should it be construed as legal advice. For more information, please consult the full warning.

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