May 13, 2016 Top Story

"Organic" Mislabeling Suit Moves Forward

Intentional mislabeling claim not preempted by federal statute

Sara E. Costello

Consumers can bring state law claims alleging that food producers are intentionally mislabeling their products as “organic,” ruled the Supreme Court of California. In Quesada v. Herb Thyme Farms, Inc., the court held that a class action based on California consumer fraud laws was not preempted by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), 7 U.S.C. §§ 6501–6522. The California Supreme Court is the first state supreme court to consider the scope of implied preemption under OFPA.

Suit Claims Product Not Fully Organic

On behalf of a group of consumers, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant mislabeled its product as “Fresh Organic,” when it included both conventionally and organically grown herbs or only non-organic herbs. The herbs also bore the “USDA Organic” graphic. The plaintiff’s suit, filed in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, California, alleged that the defendant violated California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act, Civ. Code § 1750, unfair competition law, Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200, and false advertising law, Bus. & Prof. Code § 17500.

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