In January 2018, the Food Institute hosted a webinar discussing lawsuits that food and beverage manufacturers were being subjected to. These lawsuits were being served to manufacturers of all sizes, with small and medium-sized manufacturers being targeted and impacted more frequently due to their lack of resources readily available to defend themselves in a courtroom setting. As a result, there exists a greater likelihood of a settlement being reached outside of court.
Below are ten examples of the types of claims commonly seen on food and beverage labels that are drawing legal attention as discussed in the webinar by the Food Institute:
Products containing “Natural” on their label have been encountering legal challenges when their products contain artificial additives, pesticide residues (even trace levels), genetic modification (at any instance in the production process), or are considered to be heavily processed throughout the manufacturing process (even if originally from a natural source).
Legal action has been seen where manufacturers have been sued for representing products containing high levels of added sugar as “nutritious” and “wholesome”.
If the product containing this claim could compare to products that normally do not contain added sugar, then this claim is not permitted.
Despite the existence of an FDA draft guidance document about whole-grain claims, it is not law and does not encompass all scenarios. Claims stating “made with whole-grain flour” is risky unless whole-grain flour is the major ingredient of the product.
When ingredients are present in an insignificant amount and are very low in the ingredients’ list, its value and importance as a “key” ingredient should not be attention-grabbing.
Processed foods are not equivalent to fresh fruits and vegetables and should not be exaggerated on labels as such.
A product should not be false in what ingredients are claimed to be 100% of its composition. If a product is labelled to contain 100% of a single ingredient, then no other ingredients should be present.
Even if a claim has a history of use without being challenged legally, it does not mean that these claims are risk-free. Long-standing claims should be examined regularly in relation to the current legal standards based on current lawsuits.
If the product is made in one country, pictures and words that would mislead consumers to think that the product was made in a different country is not permitted.
Just because a competitor uses a certain type of claim doesn’t mean that an identical claim can be made with impunity. It is possible that the claim of the competitor could be causing them to be sued.
From the examples provided above, it is clear that there are several claims that, despite their popularity, require careful consideration before being used on a food or beverage label. If careful consideration is not taken prior to product labeling, your company could potentially face negative legal challenges. The fundamental issue appears to be that many claims remain undefined by the FDA and therefore are up to the interpretation of state laws for consumer protection.
For more information on how the claims on your food and beverage labels could expose your products to regulatory oversight and options available to you to help mitigate the litigation risk, please contact us here at dicentra.
dicentra is a professional consulting firm that specializes in addressing all matters related to safety, quality and compliance for all product categories in the life sciences and food industries. We can be reached at 1-866-647-3279 or email@example.com.