On Monday, three individuals filed a putative consumer class action against Whole Foods, Inc. in the Central District of California. The fourth plaintiff, Farm Forward, describes itself as “a national public interest animal protection [tax exempt 501(C)3] organization” whose purpose “is to end factory farming.” Plaintiffs allege that Whole Foods falsely advertises its beef products as being free of antibiotics.
The three individual plaintiffs – Sara Safari, Peymon Khaghani and Jason Rose – state they are California citizens and seek to represent a class of US purchasers of “Beef Products” from the defendant beginning in 2017 and a “California Subclass” of those who purchased such products during the same period.
The plaintiffs allege that Class Members would not have purchased Beef Products, or would not have paid a premium for such products, had they known that the defendant’s marketing slogan, “ No Antibiotics, Ever,” and similar representations, which allegedly permeate Whole Foods stores, product packaging and advertising, was false as established by laboratory testing.
Plaintiffs also allege that Whole Foods falsely represented that the livestock are “Animal Welfare Certified” because “… cattle raised with routine, subtherapeutic antibiotics are typically not raised with higher animal welfare standards.” Plaintiffs link their primary antibiotic related allegations with the animal welfare allegations: “In short, a reasonable consumer upon seeing Whole Foods’ ‘Animal Welfare Certified’ label — particularly in combination with its ‘No Antibiotics, Ever’ advertising-is left with the false impression that the Beef Product was raised without antibiotics.”
The plaintiffs allege five causes of action: Violation of the [California] Consumers Remedy Act (on behalf of the California Subclass); Violation of the [California] Unfair Competition Law (on behalf of the California Subclass and Plaintiff Farm Forward); Violation of the [California] False Advertising Law (on behalf of the California Subclass and Plaintiff Farm Forward); Unjust Enrichment (on behalf of the Class); and Fraudulent Concealment (on behalf of the Class and Plaintiff Farm Forward). Consumer Plaintiffs seek “active damages or restitution, punitive damages, and pre- and post-judgment interest”; all Plaintiffs seek attorneys’ fees and declaratory and injunctive relief, including “mandating that Whole Foods undertake a corrective campaign of notification at its expense.”