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Lawyers From Suits Against Big Tobacco Target Food Makers

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posted on Aug, 19 2012 @ 06:59 PM
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Don Barrett, a Mississippi lawyer, took in hundreds of millions of dollars a decade ago after suing Big Tobacco and winning record settlements from R. J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and other cigarette makers. So did Walter Umphrey, Dewitt M. Lovelace and Stuart and Carol Nelkin Ever since, the lawyers have been searching for big paydays in business, scoring more modest wins against car companies, drug makers, brokerage firms and insurers. Now, they have found the next target: food manufacturers.

More than a dozen lawyers who took on the tobacco companies have filed 25 cases against industry players like ConAgra Foods, PepsiCo, Heinz, General Mills and Chobani that stock pantry shelves and refrigerators across America.

The suits, filed over the last four months, assert that food makers are misleading consumers and violating federal regulations by wrongly labeling products and ingredients. While there has been a barrage of litigation against the industry in recent years, the tobacco lawyers are moving particularly aggressively. They are asking a federal court in California to halt ConAgra’s sales of Pam cooking spray, Swiss Miss cocoa products and some Hunt’s canned tomatoes.

“It’s a crime — and that makes it a crime to sell it,” said Mr. Barrett, citing what he contends is the mislabeling of those products. “That means these products should be taken off the shelves.”

The food companies counter that the suits are without merit, another example of litigation gone wild and driven largely by the lawyers’ financial motivations. Mr. Barrett said his group could seek damages amounting to four years of sales of mislabeled products — which could total many billions of dollars.

“It’s difficult to take some of these claims seriously, for instance, that a consumer was deceived into believing that a chocolate hazelnut spread for bread was healthy for children,” said Kristen E. Polovoy, an industry lawyer at Montgomery McCracken, referring to a lawsuit that two mothers brought against the maker of Nutella. “I think the courts are starting to look at the implausibility of some of these suits.”

A federal judge in California in 2009 dismissed a case against PepsiCo, which accused the company of false advertising because Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries cereal does not contain real berries. He ruled that “a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the product in the instant case contained a fruit that does not exist.”

While the lawyers are being questioned about their motives, they are not alone in pursuing the food industry.

In recent weeks, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has sued General Mills and McNeil Nutritionals over their claims on Nature Valley and Splenda Essentials products, and warned Welch’s it would sue unless the company changed the wording on its juice and fruit snacks. The Federal Trade Commission won settlements from companies like Dannon and Pom Wonderful for claims about their products’ health benefits. And PepsiCo and Coca-Cola face lawsuits over claims that their orange juice products are “100% natural.”

The latest playbook — like the one that paid off in the wave of tobacco litigation — could prove potent, as the food companies’ own lawyers have warned.

Other plaintiffs’ lawyers have largely taken aim at food products marketed as “healthy” or “natural,” subjective claims that can be easily disputed by expert witnesses. Unlike foods labeled “organic,” there are no federal standards for foods that are called “healthy” or “natural.”

The new batch of litigation argues that food companies are violating specific rules about ingredients and labels. Mr. Barrett’s group, for example, has brought a case against Chobani, the Greek yogurt maker, for listing “evaporated cane juice,” as an ingredient in its pomegranate-flavored yogurt. The Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly warned companies not to use the term because it is “false and misleading,” according to the suit.

“If you’re going to put sugar in your yogurt, why not just say it’s sugar?” said Pierce Gore, a lawyer affiliated with Mr. Barrett’s group.

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So I have some mixed emotions on this one here. I think its a good thing they are going after these companies but I am fearful of this being a stage show to jack up taxes on anything that has sugar in it and let many food products take huge hits like cigarettes did. I for one feel there is more than meets the eye with this...

Opinions?
edit on 19-8-2012 by lobotomizemecapin because: oops




posted on Aug, 19 2012 @ 07:18 PM
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The new batch of litigation argues that food companies are violating specific rules about ingredients and labels. Mr. Barrett’s group, for example, has brought a case against Chobani, the Greek yogurt maker, for listing “evaporated cane juice,” as an ingredient in its pomegranate-flavored yogurt. The Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly warned companies not to use the term because it is “false and misleading,” according to the suit.

“If you’re going to put sugar in your yogurt, why not just say it’s sugar?” said Pierce Gore, a lawyer affiliated with Mr. Barrett’s group.

“Food companies will argue that these are harmless crimes — the tobacco companies said the same thing,” Mr. Barrett said. “But to diabetics and some other people, sugar is just as deadly as poison.”

The suit also claims, among other things, that Swiss Miss and Hunt’s labels bear improper claims about nutrients and antioxidant properties.


Evaporated cane juice is a loosely defined term which can include combinations of sugars including glucose, and fructose. It is less processed than bleached white sugar.[1]

At least these lawyers are actually doing something, this is real activism. These corporations need to stop labeling their products in a misleading way for financial gain. The corps want to pretend that their food is healthy or all natural when it isn't in a lot of cases.


edit on 19-8-2012 by RealSpoke because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 19 2012 @ 07:41 PM
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My opinion is simply this. We cheered and applauded for the most part, when they went for Tobacco companies. I used to smoke and it was personal then. I don't now..and I HATE cigarettes. You know? It's still personal though and this is why.

People were saying then...and what do ya know, proven accurate...that Cigarettes were just establishing precedent and it would never end there. Well, look here....Now it's going to be another industry they bleed dry and throw away.


Well folks, Cigarette pack prices tripled at the minimum, thanks to the blood sucking lawyers. Which industry are we good with them multiplying prices on to pay their fees on the class actions, this time? ....as if anyone is asking us anyway.

I say we start reform of this legal system and we start with a basic a very common sense measure. HALF this crap will end over night. If when a civil plaintiff's attorney loses a case, it's not *JUST* legal feels paid 100% to the other side, it should be DOUBLE the fees and then split 50%/50% even with the client. The Lawyer PERSONALLY writes the check for the equivalent of all the defense's legal fees on a loss.

Lets see how anxious the ambulance chasers and sharks like this are when it's THEIR money they lose for saying "What they heck..Let's sue! What is there to lose?"
edit on 19-8-2012 by Wrabbit2000 because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 19 2012 @ 08:12 PM
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reply to post by RealSpoke
 


I agree but I doubt that it will just stop with getting them to honestly label products. I just feel there is more going on here than meets the eye



posted on Aug, 19 2012 @ 08:19 PM
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seems like a 360 for corps trying to avoid responsibility. I agree as in indians use to smoke tobacco for a calming effect, but since then lots of ingredients have be added,..things have changed since those days, just hoping for the best of not adding to the blame.
.,-~~%0o%~~=



posted on Aug, 19 2012 @ 08:26 PM
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reply to post by lobotomizemecapin
 


I would be more impressed if they sued monsanto instead
of the other companies listed.



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