A judge in the Central District of California recently granted Coca-Cola's motion for summary judgment, finding that the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) preempts plaintiff Pom Wonderful LLC's state law claims that Coca-Cola misleadingly labeled its "Minute Maid Enhanced Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored 100% Juice Blend." Pom Wonderful filed suit in 2008, alleging that Coca-Cola's product name and label misleadingly suggested the Coca-Cola drink contained mostly pomegranate and blueberry juices, when it actually contained more than 99% apple and grape juices. In its recent ruling, the court found Coca-Cola complied with the FDA's regulations (enacted pursuant to the FDCA), and thus federal law preempted any claims that the juice had been misleadingly labeled under California state laws. On these same grounds, the court further found that California's Safe Harbor statute provided a separate and independent basis for granting summary judgment in favor of Coca-Cola. In light of the above rulings, the court declined to analyze whether Coca-Cola's labeling practices misled consumers. The Ninth Circuit had previously rejected Pom Wonderful's claims under the Lanham Act, finding they were also precluded by Coca-Cola's compliance with FDA regulations on blended juice labeling.
Tip: While rulings on this preemption issue have not been entirely consistent, this decision joins the chorus of courts finding FDCA compliant labels cannot be challenged under state law, and further indicates that the Ninth Circuit and California courts are paying more attention to preemption by the FDCA in labeling cases.
This tip has been created for information and planning purposes. They are not intended to be, nor should they be substituted for, legal advice, which turns on specific facts.
Liisa M. Thomas
; Ronald Y. Rothstein; Caroline A. Wenzke