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The lawsuit against baby food making giant, Gerber, for deceptive labeling, has been revived by the Ninth Circuit Court. The case, which was nearly completely dismissed in 2013, alleges that the labels on Gerber baby food contained phrases that were misleading to customers. The circuit court has remanded the matter back to the district court to re-review the matter, and continue hearing the case, which despite being four years old, is still in its infancy.
The goliath of the baby food industry is alleged to have violated FDA standards on making claims on their product labels, and therefore misled consumers. For example, the phrase "as health as fresh" or "natural" or "a good source of __" potentially violate FDA standards. These types of phrases on Gerber products mislead consumers due to the fact that competitors' products lack the same type of claims on the product labels.
The lawsuit was initially dismissed because Gerber was able to successfully claim that none of the statements in question were false. Further, Gerber was able to convince the court that the claims for relief being made were insufficient based on the alleged facts.
However, as the Ninth Circuit noted, falsity is not the deciding factor, but rather, whether or not the statements would mislead consumers is what matters most. As such, the court found that despite the alleged truth, the plaintiff had shown that the labels can potentially be misleading to consumers, particularly given the context of the grocery store aisle where competitor products that comply with FDA standards lack the same type of product label statements.
While the matter is being brought by an individual consumer, the plaintiff seeks to represent the class of individual consumers who have been tricked into buying Gerber based upon the product labels' statements. Gerber's representative asserted that the company is confident that they will again prevail at the district court level. However, based on the company's alleged failure to adhere to FDA product labeling standards, the road ahead might not be as smooth whirled peas.
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