In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court of California has made it clear that consumers have a right to file lawsuits if a company claims their products are organic, but do so falsely. The decision overturned a lower courts’ ruling that consumers could not file lawsuits of this nature based on federal law which “supersede a state’s legislation.”
Congress wanted only state and federal officials to police organic food violations in order to create a national standard for organic foods, a division of the 2nd District Court of Appeal decided in 2013.
The state Supreme Court ruled against this notion, citing the fact that allowing consumer lawsuits would further congressional goals of curtailing fraud and ensuring consumers can rely on organic labels.
There have already been multiple cases of companies claiming their products were ‘all natural’ or ‘organic’ when, in fact, they were not.
“While we believe that the term, “organic,” in a brand name context does not inherently imply an organic production or handling claim and, thus, does not inherently constitute a false or misleading statement, we intend to monitor the use of the term in the context of the entire label. We will consult with the FTC and FDA regarding product and company names that may misrepresent the nature of the product and take action on a case-by-case basis.”
Unless a food has a certified organic seal, and the word organic appears on it elsewhere, it likely still contains non-organic ingredients. Consumers should beware. If they live in California, they now have recourse against companies who would try to dupe them.