On Monday in the Northern District of California, The Kraft Heinz Company filed a motion attempting to dismiss a class-action lawsuit filed against the company claiming that it could not market its cheese products as natural because the milk used to make the cheese was reportedly produced using artificial growth hormones.
The defendant argued in its motion that the phrase “natural” would not be considered false or deceptive to a “reasonable consumer,” that the plaintiffs did not have standing for injunctive relief because there is no threat of harm, and that the claims should not be heard now because the use of the term “natural” is under review by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).
Kraft Heinz said the plaintiffs did not allege that any artificial or unnatural ingredients were added to the cheese, but rather alleged that the milk was used by cows who were given, at some point in their lives, the growth hormone rbST. The company said that the “plaintiffs’ attenuated theory regarding the meaning of ‘natural cheese’ is implausible and inconsistent with the understanding of reasonable consumers.” It also said that the dairy industry and the government use “natural cheese” to refer to cheese that is made from milk and so it is not “processed cheese,” and said its products are “indisputably made directly from milk.”
The motion further purported that consumers would not interpret the phrase to show that no cow used in the supply chain was given a growth hormone. It alleged that the complaint should be dismissed because it does not meet the reasonable consumer standard; the complaint claimed that someone might be confused by the labeling, but for the complaint to continue it would, under cited precedent, require that a significant number of consumers would likely be misled.
The defendant also said the consumers did not have standing to bring claims on behalf of consumers living outside of California because the claims would be based on laws from other states.
The plaintiffs, Sylvia Koh and David Green, are represented by Richman Law Group. Kraft Heinz is represented by Sidley Austin. The motion to dismiss will be considered before the court on December 18.