Joining a growing trend in federal court jurisprudence, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed a class action complaint because it found that the Mott’s fruit snacks at issue did not affirmatively misrepresent their contents. In short, the court held that Mott’s fruit snacks’ labels could not deceive consumers because they were literally true.
The plaintiff in the Mott’s case asserted allegations similar to claims that had successfully withstood motions to dismiss in the past. He alleged that the fruit snacks’ use of phrases like “made with real fruit and vegetable juice” misled consumers to believe the products contained more fruits and vegetables than they did, and representations like “100% of your daily value of Vitamin C” falsely conveyed to consumers that the products were healthful and nutritious. Based on these allegations, the plaintiff brought consumer protection claims and related common law claims on behalf of himself and all California consumers who purchased Mott’s fruit snacks.
Notwithstanding the past success of similar allegations, the Central District of California rejected these claims in their entirety. The court held that the fruit snacks’ packaging and advertising could not deceive a reasonable consumer as a matter of law because the statements were literally true – the products were made with real fruit and vegetable juice and did contain 100% of the daily value of Vitamin C. The court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the fruit snacks’ packaging as a whole could mislead consumers because it found that the fruit imagery on the label matched the fruits used in the products and the label advised that the fruit snacks were “not intended to replace fruit in the diet.” Further, the court concluded that marketing statements representing that kids “love” fruit snacks, which are a “tasty treat you can feel good about,” could not deceive a reasonable consumer because they said nothing about the fruit and vegetable or nutritional content of the fruit snacks.
- Having dismissed the plaintiff’s California consumer protection claims, the court also dismissed the plaintiff’s claims for breach of express warranty and unjust enrichment for similar reasons. Notably, though, the court stated that it would have found the plaintiff had standing for injunctive relief had his claims not been dismissed. The court allowed the plaintiff leave to amend his pleadings, although it warned the plaintiff that amendment would be difficult and would have to comply with Federal Rule 11, which allows for sanctions for frivolous allegations. Thus, it is no longer a given that claims alleging a food product’s labeling misleads consumers about the product’s nutritional qualities will withstand a motion to dismiss, absent allegations that the product’s label contains affirmative misrepresentations.
The case is Chuang v. Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Inc., No. CV 17-01875-MWF (MRWx) (C.D. Cal. Sept. 20, 2017).