Food Industry Lawsuits That Could Reshape the Industry
Food safety is a big deal. Foodborne illness can happen to anybody, at any time and any place. When you’re eating out, you’re also relying on the health of the employees and the food industry overall to ensure your meal is safe to eat. After eating out, the last thing someone wants is to get sick for days.
Food companies are now under fire for allegedly misleading consumers about their products, with lawsuits filed against big names like Coca-Cola and General Mills. In these cases, plaintiffs sued these companies for allegedly making false or misleading marketing claims.
Food industry lawsuits can be time-consuming and stressful. Even if you win your case, it may take months or years to see your settlement. One way to help the financial strain while you wait is pre-settlement funding. This type of funding allows you to get cash for a portion of your future settlement award or verdict.
Here are some common types of cases that may qualify for express funding:
- Defective Food Products
- Food Poisoning
- Recall Notice Injury
Litigation finance is a form of pre-settlement lawsuit funding that offers cash advances to plaintiffs in exchange for a share of the lawsuit’s proceeds. These advances are typically funded within 24 hours of applying and come at no risk to the plaintiff because repayment is contingent on winning or settling the case.
Food Industry Lawsuits
The food industry has long been a target for legal action, but several lawsuits against big companies could signal a new era in food litigation.
While class-action suits have been filed against food companies since the 1970s (and have historically typically sought money damages or company reforms), there’s been a notable uptick in recent years. Many newer cases seek to change labeling rules or how foods are marketed.
In 2002, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by two teenagers who blamed McDonald’s for their obesity. The judge ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to show that McDonald’s alone was responsible for their weight gain and diet-related illnesses. But that didn’t end the litigation against fast food companies.
A class-action suit filed against McDonald’s in 2003 accuses the company of promoting junk food to kids and targeting children with misleading advertising campaigns. The case has been delayed several times, but one legal expert told Business Insider that it “could be a huge deal” if it goes forward.
McDonald’s McNugget suit: A woman filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s, accusing the fast-food chain of misrepresenting its Chicken McNuggets as “made with all white meat”. McDonald’s says its McNuggets are made with all white meat but also acknowledges that it uses “a small percentage of dark meat along with the breast and tenderloin meat.”
If successful, the case would have far-reaching consequences. As of 2014, more than 10% of American children were obese. Even if they aren’t obese now, many adults who struggle with weight gain can trace their issues to childhood habits that became lifelong addictions.
The food industry is being rocked by lawsuits over the hazards of additives, from cancer-linked chemicals to allergens.
Lawyers who filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s in 2013 over the deceptive marketing of Happy Meals argued that parents thought they were buying healthy meals when they were buying products high in fat, calories, and sodium. The case was dismissed on procedural grounds, but similar cases have been filed in California, New York, Illinois, and Washington.
In mid-2016, General Mills was sued for allegedly misleading consumers with their marketing of Nature Valley products. The suit claims that General Mills had deceived consumers into believing that its Nature Valley products were healthy. Instead, they contained added sugar and other ingredients that were unhealthy.
The lawsuit also alleges that General Mills continued to market its Nature Valley products as healthy even after the FDA made it clear that certain claims could not be made on packaging unless the product met specific requirements. For example, any ” healthy ” product must contain 3 grams of fat per serving and no more than 1 gram of saturated fat per serving.
It is alleged that several Nature Valley products had more than 3 grams of fat per serving yet still carried the label “healthy.” The suit requires General Mills to change its labeling practices to avoid misleading consumers about their Nature Valley products’ sugar content and health benefits.
At least 60 people got sick in 2017 in nine different states because of food-borne illnesses at Chipotle Mexican Grill. One of those people has sued the chain, which has struggled to recover from previous outbreaks that left hundreds ill in late 2015 and early 2016.
Subway Bread Lawsuit
The bread at Subway restaurants does not meet the definition of bread, a group of consumers alleged in a lawsuit filed against the sandwich chain. Subway says there is nothing artificial about its bread, so it calls it bread. The chain said it would defend itself vigorously and considered litigation against the plaintiffs for false claims and misleading marketing.
The Federal Trade Commission accused Kellogg Company of making “deceptive advertising” about its Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal. The case was settled in 2009, but Kellogg agreed to pay $2.5 million in civil penalties and stop using claims like “helps improve your child’s attentiveness by nearly 20%.”
Coca-Cola was sued by a consumer advocacy group called the Center for Science in the Public Interest. It claims Coke has deceived the public about the health effects of its drinks by sponsoring scientific research on the subject and donating to health groups that then came out in favor of sugary drinks. Coke denies any wrongdoing, saying it was not involved in any organizations’ positions on nutrition policy or science issues.
Food industry lawsuits are growing more common and intense as companies fight for their reputations and protect their markets. However, the good news is that these lawsuits are shaping the food industry for the better, as cases can often lead to industry-wide standards or significant changes in how food is advertised or marketed.