Plaintiff Dirties Panera’s ‘Eat Clean’ Claims

Advertising Law

A new class action lawsuit filed in California federal court accuses Panera Bread of false advertising based on a campaign promoting the fast-casual restaurant chain as a place to “eat clean.”

Brianna Tabler told the court that while Panera’s new ad campaign—featuring in-store advertisements, bags, signs and labels, along with the use of an “earthy” green and brown color scheme—promotes its food as “clean” and “100% clean,” the food actually contains glyphosate.

For example, signs and placards displayed in Panera’s retail outlets contain statements such as “Food should be clean. No artificial colors, preservatives, sweeteners, flavors, or anything else you wouldn’t want to serve your family.” And bags include statements like “100% clean food: No artificial flavors, sweeteners, preservatives/No colors from artificial sources.”

The national chain is attempting to jump on the clean-eating bandwagon but misrepresents its products (including sandwiches, baked goods and other prepared foods) in the process, Tabler alleged, as they contain the same synthetic biocide residue found in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer.

“There is a growing desire among consumers to purchase and consume ‘clean’ foods, which consumers understand to be foods free of artificial ingredients, especially pesticides,” according to the complaint. “Panera is deceiving consumers into believing that [its] products are of a higher quality, free from synthetic chemicals, or free from chemical residues from the production process when they are not.”

Tabler purchased a whole-grain bagel on multiple occasions from Panera stores, relying on the “clean” and “100% clean” representations, she told the court.

The putative class action alleges violations of the state’s Unfair Competition Law, False Advertising Law and Consumer Legal Remedies Act, seeking monetary damages as well as a halt to the allegedly deceptive advertising.

To read the complaint in Tabler v. Panera, LLC, click here.

Why it matters: The challenge to Panera’s “eat clean” and “100% clean” claims brings to mind the continuing class actions over “all natural” advertising claims, which have targeted everything from chips and dip to sunscreen.