The debate over using genetically modified organisms is playing out in a Florida courtroom in an interesting way for consumers who rely on “All Natural” labels to avoid GMO ingredients.
At issue is a class action lawsuit filed last year by Florida resident Mark Krzykwa against Campbell Soup Co., who Krzykwa says is misleading consumers about its 100% Natural Soups line because some of the flavors contain grown from genetically modified seeds.
In his original complaint, Krzykwa cited two varieties of Campbell’s 100% Natural Chicken Soup, but amended his claims twice to instead target Light Southwestern-Style Vegetable Soup, Tomato Garden Soup and Vegetable Medley Soup.
The change in focus is important because chicken soups are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which pre-approves labels for these products. Vegetable soups, however, fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which does not pre-approve labels.
Attorneys for Campbell told a federal judge on Friday it should dismiss the class action lawsuit because the false labeling claims are pre-empted by the USDA’s prior approval of the label.
“Those labels bear USDA’s mark of inspection and, by law, cannot be false or misleading,” according to Campbell’s motion. “Recognizing this, [Krzykwa] has changed his story…. Instead, he now says he bought three other soups in the same line of Campbell’s 100% Natural Soups and does not mention the early two. Conveniently, these three varieties do not contain chicken or beef, so they are regulated by the FDA rather than the USDA.”
Changing his claims does not make a difference, however, because the core dispute still remains, Campbell says.
“He is suing over corn. The same allegedly offensive corn is found in the USDA-regulated soups — which he now concedes are beyond his reach — as in the FDA-regulated soups.”
Both agencies agree that food derived from genetically engineered ingredients is no different from food derived from traditional farming, and both agree that “natural’ claims are not limited by the presence of GMOs, Campbell says.
Since the two sister agencies exercise consistency among their regulations and policies, Campbell argues the same pre-emption for approving the chicken soup labels should extend to the vegetable soups.
“Any further issues that the court believes need resolution should be left to FDA to decide, as it has jurisdiction over the three products at issue,” Campbell says.
U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas has not issued a ruling yet. If he rules in favor of Campbell, it could limit the ability of consumers to sue companies for using “All Natural” labels on food products that contain GMO ingredients.
The case is Krzykwa et al. v. Campbell Soup Co., Case No. 12-cv-62058, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
UPDATE: The court rejected Campbell’s argument to dismiss the class action lawsuit on May 24, 2013.
Top Class Actions is a Proud Member of the American Bar Association
LEGAL INFORMATION IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE
©2008 – 2014 Top Class Actions® LLC
Various Trademarks held by their respective owners
View all: Class Action Lawsuit and Settlement News