As reported by Law360, a proposed class action by parents charging Abbott Labs with misrepresenting that its baby formula is organic under NY and CA state law has been dismissed. The Second Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision, finding that the parents' state law claims were preempted by the federal Organic Foods Production Act ("OFPA").
The plaintiffs had alleged that Abbott's use of the "USDA Organic" seal on its Similac label misled consumers because the formula contained ingredients not allowed under OFPA. However, the Court found that since the label was certified by a US Department of Agriculture-accredited agent, the parents' claims were really about the OFPA certification process itself and, thus, were preempted.
This tension between state advertising and consumer protection laws and federal regulations has been evident in several food cases over the last few years and seems likely to continue as food jurisprudence develops, especially over terms like "natural" and "organic."
A three-judge panel sided with a lower court’s decision that federal agriculture regulations trumped the consumers’ state-level allegations.