Legal Newsline

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Sargento seeks dismissal of suit over 'natural' label

By Olivia Olsen | Sep 14, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) – Sargento Foods Inc. filed a motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit on Sept. 1 that claims it mislabeled products as "natural."

Judge Elizabeth D. Laporte will review the motion Nov. 7 at a hearing at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Brittany Stanton initiated the suit in May on behalf of herself and others claiming that the company allegedly committed fraud and negligent misrepresentation of its products. Stanton’s grievance stems from the cheese packaging which states that the product is natural, though she asserts the cheese is derived from ingredients containing genetically modified organisms.

The crux of Sargento’s argument is that the allegations against the company cannot be proven and that the evidence provided by Stanton is only conclusory. 

Stanton’s argument states that ingredients used by Sargento (cheese and casein) were derived from cows that were potentially fed with GMO products and raised with hormones. 

It asserts that the plaintiff cannot prove that the company directly used any unnatural products, only that the cows providing the milk could have been exposed to them.

The motion continues to state that her claim has no standing as there’s “no risk that she will be injured in the same manner in the future” and that she “does not have the standing to enforce warranty laws in states in which she was not injured.” 

Additionally, the defendant states that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is currently reviewing whether food that contains ingredients that were potentially derived from GMO-fed animals could be labeled as natural. In lieu of a possible FDA uniformity that would render the plaintiff’s case moot, the defendant is asking for a stay if dismissal is not granted.

Sargento also argues that the term "natural" is an industry standard for cheese meant to differentiate between processed cheese products such as Cheez Whiz and naturally crafted products like American cheese. As the term is well-defined, the company states that its packaging is not mislabeled as it has met the standards set by the cheese industry to place the term on the label.

Sargento is represented by attorneys from the law firm Venable LLP in San Francisco.

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U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California