On Friday, a New York federal court decertified a class action suit against KIND LLC, holding that the plaintiffs failed to show how reasonable consumers were deceived by KIND’s “all natural” snack bar labeling. The ruling comes after lengthy litigation surrounding health and ingredient content-focused representations appearing on KIND product labels.
The reasonable consumer standard requires plaintiffs to demonstrate that a “reasonable consumer would have been misled by the defendant’s conduct.” Here, the court found that the plaintiffs were unable to introduce evidence to determine a reasonable consumer’s understanding of “all natural.” The court also determined that there is no objective definition of “all natural” that would exist to support plaintiffs’ argument. Thus, the court concluded, while the phrase “all natural” is subject to numerous definitions, any possible or potentially reasonable beliefs a consumer may have about its meaning are insufficient to satisfy the reasonable consumer standard. The judge granted KIND’s motion for summary judgment.
Plaintiffs initially challenged KIND products’ “all natural/non GMO” labels in 2015, claiming they were misled by the labels because the products contained genetically modified and processed ingredients. KIND discontinued the label in 2017. In 2021, plaintiffs then sued based solely on KIND’s “all natural” statements, arguing that a product containing GMO ingredients should not be considered “natural.” Here, plaintiffs argued that the “all natural” labeling meant the products were made from whole nuts, fruits, and whole grains or that they were free of any synthetic or chemical ingredients, generally making the product “healthy.”
The word “natural” appearing on food labels has been the focus of hundreds of lawsuits filed by consumers who feel deceived and tricked into paying higher prices for foods containing allegedly unnatural ingredients. There is currently no formal FDA definition for the term.
, S.D.N.Y., No. 1:15-md-02645, 9/9/22.
“Rather than determining how reasonable consumers understand the ‘All Natural’ claim, plaintiffs are supplying the standard, and then arguing that consumers were deceived”