BROOKLYN, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) — What is natural? The courts are constantly looking at how to resolve this very issue, according to a Minnesota attorney, as is the case with another food ingredient labeling lawsuit, this time against spice maker McCormick & Company.
Megan Holve of New York filed a class action lawsuit against McCormick & Company Inc., alleging negligent misrepresentation, which attorney Chris Kennedy of Minnesota says is the only charge that could possibly be brought by Holve successfully.
Holve filed her complaint on behalf of all in the class defined in her complaint Oct. 13, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. She alleges McCormick & Company made false claims regarding one of its products as all-natural.
"I think there are a number of frivolous lawsuits against large corporations," Kennedy said. "I don't know that is the case here but it does happen with great frequency. They're not always intending to be malicious. No two people's idea of what all-natural is is exactly the same."
The complaint from the plaintiff alleges she suffered from purchasing what she believed to be made from natural ingredients but wasn't. She asserts McCormick is responsible because it alleged its product to be "all natural" but knew it contained synthetic, artificial and genetically modified ingredients.
Holve said no reasonable consumer would consider the ingredients natural by definition. She asserts the company is taking advantage of consumer demand for healthier products but not actually delivering what is claimed.
She cited research from the Consumers' Union to back this up. That research says 86 percent of consumers define natural as not containing any artificial ingredients and perceive products labeled natural as healthier and wholesome. Moreover, they are willing to pay higher prices for access to these kinds of products.
Holve, in her complaint, said she bought McCormick's Herbes de Provence roasted chicken & potatoes mix in 2014 and believed the product she purchased was “natural." She indicated she would not have made the purchase had she known the real ingredients contained in the mix.
She compiled a list of 29 McCormick seasoning blends and gravy mixes and contends those products ought to be considered in the suit as well. McCormick also faces several other lawsuits related to false advertising claims.
The plaintiff requests a trial by jury and seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, restitution, disgorgement, compensatory, treble and punitive damages, interest, court costs and any further relief this court grants. She is represented by attorneys Michael R. Reese and George V. Granade of Reese LLP in New York, and by Joshua H. Eggnatz of Eggnatz, Lopatin & Pascucci, LLP in Davie, Florida.