New False Advertising Suits: Dog Food and Olive Oil

Advertising Law

What do dog food and olive oil have in common? Both products are the subject of recently filed consumer class actions alleging false advertising.

In a New York federal court complaint, Markeith Parks alleged that Rachael Ray deceives consumers by calling her Nutrish line of dog food “natural,” when lab tests reveal the products contain glyphosate, “a potent biocide and endocrine disruptor, with detrimental health effects that are still becoming known.”

The defendant capitalized on the increasing consumer demand for foods that omit chemicals, the plaintiff said, by “aggressively advertis[ing] and promot[ing]” the dog food as “natural” in order to sell more products. Parks saw, relied upon and reasonably believed the representations before making his purchase, according to the complaint, and he was not alone.

“Consumers reasonably believe that a product or ingredient represented as ‘Natural’ does not contain unnatural biocides,” he alleged. Seeking to certify a statewide class of purchasers, the lawsuit requested injunctive relief and monetary damages for the alleged violations of New York’s consumer protection law.

Across the country, Renee Young and Shelly Robinson accused Transnational Foods and The J.M. Smucker Company, respectively, of falsely advertising their olive oil products. In the nearly identical complaints, the plaintiffs directed their claims at Transnational’s Pampa Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Smucker’s Crisco 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil No-Stick Spray.

While both defendants tout their products as extra virgin olive oil, neither truly is, the plaintiffs told the court.

“In reality, extensive clinical testing conducted by a leader laboratory—measuring the key variables of (1) Free Fatty Acid, (2) Peroxide Value (Acetic Acid-Isooctane Method), (3) Specific Extinction, (4) Ultraviolet Absorption, (5) Sensory analysis, (6) Insoluble Impurities, (7) Copper (ICP-AES), and (8) Moisture & Volatile Content—conclusively establishes that [the products are] not extra virgin olive oil,” according to the California federal court complaints.

Both lawsuits claim the plaintiffs were deceived by the claims and would not have purchased the products had they known their true content. They asked the court to certify a statewide class of purchasers, award damages and restitution, and order the defendants to cease and desist from engaging in their allegedly unlawful advertising.

To read the complaint in Parks v. Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, LLC, click here.

To read the complaint in Young v. Transnational Foods, Inc., click here.

To read the complaint in Robinson v. The J.M. Smucker Company, click here.

Why it matters: “Natural” claims have been a long-running target for consumer class actions involving food for human consumption—albeit typically involving human food—of which olive oil products are the latest to face lawsuits. Now dog food joins the list.



pursuant to New York DR 2-101(f)

© 2023 Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP.

All rights reserved