Quaker Oats’ Deceptive Label Suit Could Provide Roadmap

Judge: Quaker Can Say Oatmeal ‘Maple’ Even if Contains No ‘Maple’; Decision Roadmap for Future Defenses
– The Cook County Record

Manatt’s Jesse Brody, a partner in the firm’s advertising, marketing and media practice, was quoted by The Cook County Record on a federal judge’s ruling in a class action lawsuit alleging Quaker Oats’ food ingredient labeling practices were misleading and deceptive.

The company was sued over the contents of its maple and brown sugar oatmeal product which, the lawsuit claimed, did not contain actual maple. Quaker’s motion to dismiss—based on the argument that the claim was preempted under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and the Nutritional Labeling Education Act—was granted.

“Advertisers that adhere to FDCA requirements and FDA guidelines regarding flavor labeling and refrain from indicating the product the flavor is derived from is an actual ingredient may be permitted to advertise such flavors on product packaging,” said Brody. He noted that a 2016 FDA Consumer Update confirmed that terms like “maple” “can be used on the label of a product that does not contain maple syrup as long as the product contains maple flavoring.”

He also explained that the judge granted plaintiffs leave to amend on other grounds, including claims for express warranty and standing, as well as “a false advertising claim based on maple as a sweetener.”

“While the court found that any misrepresentation or false advertising claim premised on federal compliant ‘flavor’ labeling would be preempted, the court noted that maple as a ‘sweetener’ could ‘possibly avoid preemption’ if successfully pled. Thus, it is possible we could see amended claims,” Brody said.

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