Sprout Foods Partially Survives Labeling Challenge

An order was issued by Judge Richard Seebord on Monday partially granting a motion to dismiss a case between Sprout Foods Inc. and plaintiffs Gillian and Samuel Davidson. The initial complaint, which was filed in the Northern District of California, alleged that Sprout mislabeled their baby food in violation of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation.

According to the complaint, the labeling of Sprout products explicitly expresses that the pouches are intended for children under the age of two. Notably, nutrient content claims are strictly prohibited by the FDA for products that are marketed to children less than two years of age, the complaint says.

The Sprout labeling indicates that the products include nutrients like ‘3 g of Protein’ or ‘4g of Fiber.’ The plaintiffs argue that these claims are prohibited under FDA regulations. Further, the plaintiffs allege that the defendant misleads purchasers by representing that their products are healthier for children than similar products.

The initial complaint concluded that the plaintiffs had purchased the defendant’s products due to the prohibited nutrient content claims and would not have purchased them or would have paid significantly less for them if they had been aware of the misleading marketing. The suit cited violations of the California Unfair Competition Law, the False Advertising Law, and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act

The defendant moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the plaintiff did not allege sufficient injury-in-fact and lacked the statutory standing to challenge label statements on products they did not see or buy. The plaintiff bought two of the defendant’s products yet challenged 26 Sprout products. The court rejected this reasoning, ruling that the plaintiffs have both Article III and statutory standing.

Sprout also argued that the plaintiffs had not adequately alleged that Sprout had engaged in an unlawful practice since their claims about the levels of nutrients in their products do not qualify as nutrient content claims according to the FDA website. The court disagreed, saying that the text of the regulation does classify the claims as nutrient content claims.

However, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s CLRA, FAL, common law fraud, and UCL fraudulent practice claims as they “failed to show at the pleading stage that a reasonable consumer would be misled by the challenged statements on the Sprout product labels.”

The plaintiffs were granted leave to amend their complaint, which would be due 30 days following the order.

The plaintiffs are represented by Gutride Safier, while Sprout is represented by Evans Fears & Schuttert.