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Lawsuit update: Soymilk, Muscle Milk

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There have been developments in two class action lawsuits brought by consumers in California involving marketing schemes using the term “milk” – but not dairy products, according to Class Actions, LLC, a lawsuit news source.

In one lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti dismissed a proposed class action lawsuit alleging that Dean Foods Co., WhiteWave Foods Co. and Horizon Organic Dairy mislabeled their plant-based milk products as milk when they do not come from cows, finding that this allegation “stretches the bounds of credulity.” The products at issue in the lawsuit were Silk Soymilk, Silk Almond Milk, Silk Coconut Milk, Horizon Organic Yogurt, and Horizon Organic Vanilla Lowfat Milk, among others.

In the lawsuit (Ang, et al. v. WhiteWave Foods Co., et al., Case No. 3:13-cv-01953, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California), plaintiffs argued that the defendants’ soymilk, almond milk and coconut milk products were misbranded because they do not fall under the FDA’s definition of “milk,” which defines milk as a substance that comes from lactating cows.

Judge Conti disagreed with this assertion, finding that the FDA regulations pertain only “to what milk is, rather than what it is not, and makes no mention of non-dairy alternatives” similar to the defendants’ products. The judge found that the names “almond milk,” “soymilk” and “coconut milk” “clearly convey the basic nature and content of the beverages, while clearly distinguishing them from milk that is derived from dairy cows,” and that “it is simply implausible that a reasonable consumer would mistake a product like soymilk or almond milk with dairy milk from a cow.” Further, the judge found that adopting this reasoning would likely create more confusion for consumers with regard to non-dairy alternatives such as sheep or goat milk. Read more …

A proposed settlement was reached in a lawsuit accusing CytoSport Inc. of deceptively marketing its Muscle Milk products (Claire Delacruz v. CytoSport, Inc., Case No. 11-cv-3532, United States District Court, Northern District of California).

The lawsuit alleged CytoSport inaccurately labeled and marketed certain Muscle Milk beverages and bars by including statements such as “Healthy Sustained Energy,” “Health Fats,” “Good Carbohydrates,” and “0g Trans Fat” on some of its products. The plaintiff claims that these terms inaccurately portrayed the health benefits of the products in violation of California law. 

CytoSport denied the allegations, but agreed to create a $5.3 million fund for anyone who bought Muscle Milk ready-to-drink beverages and bars in the U.S. between July 18, 2007 and Dec. 31, 2012. Consumers in the class can receive up to $30 with proof of purchase or up to $10 without it.

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken said that settlement was “fair, reasonable and adequate.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had warned CytoSport through a letter that the company’s Muscle Milk products were misbranded. Read more …

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