A long-standing false advertising dispute between beverage companies Pom Wonderful and Coca-Cola has reached the United States Supreme Court and carries far-reaching implications for other food labeling litigation. On January 10, 2014, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Pom Wonderful LLC v. The Coca-Cola Co., 679 F.3d 1170 (9th Cir. 2012). See Pom Wonderful LLC v. The Coca-Cola Co., 1345 S. Ct. 895 (2014). The Court will review the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that Pom’s Lanham Act false advertising claims against Coca-Cola were broadly precluded by the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) juice labeling regulations. The scope of preclusion and preemption by the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) is an often contested issue, and the anticipated ruling by the Supreme Court has food companies and plaintiffs’ attorneys following this case closely.
At the time of the Ninth Circuit’s decision, Pom Wonderful was seen by some as a significant development for the food industry, particularly in light of the wave of ‘‘food misbranding’’ class actions being filed in federal courts. These cases challenged many aspects of food products’ labels as ‘‘misbranded’’ based on alleged non-compliancewith FDAregulations and policies. But despite the breadth of the Ninth Circuit’s discussion of the preclusive effect of the FDCA, district courts have disagreed on the ruling’s application and limits, often restricting its application to Lanham Act claims and declining to extend its holdings to nearly identical state claims.
Originally published in Mealey’s California Section 17200 Report.
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