Could food companies face class action suits for carrying organic label?

Last month, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (S.D.N.Y.) issued a ruling on a motion to dismiss in Segedie v. Hain Celestial Grp., Inc., allowing a consumer class action alleging false and misleading “organic” claims to move forward, finding that these claims under state consumer protection laws were not preempted by federal organic laws and regulations.

Plaintiffs in this case allege that they purchased various “Earth’s Best” brand foods and other products sold by Hain Celestial. The complaint identifies 62 food products and 12 body care products labeled as “organic,” and seven foods products and eight body care products labeled “natural” or “all natural”, alleging that these claims were false and misleading because the products contain ingredients that they allege are synthetic or are not permitted in organic products under the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations, even if the products were certified organic by a USDA accredited certifying agent.

The court held that federal law did not preempt the state cause of action regarding the organic claims and denied the motion to dismiss with regards to those claims.

So is “organic” the new natural? Does this ruling open the door for a natural-esque deluge of class actions? We’ll have to see, but we found the decision troubling. The court’s willingness to allow plaintiffs to second-guess the decision by an NOP certifying agent that a product qualifies as organic may indeed open the door to a flood of class actions and seems to be the type of conflict that the preemption doctrine was meant to avoid.  If a marketer cannot rely on that certification, doesn’t that gut the certification program that Congress created?

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Is Organic the New Natural?: The Impact of a Court Holding that an “Organic” Claim Is Not Preempted By Federal Law

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