Appeals court says class action against Kroger over trans fat labeling can proceed

By Takesha Thomas | Oct 11, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth District recently ruled that a class-action lawsuit filed against Kroger over claims of misleading labels on bread crumbs can move forward. 

In its ruling filed Oct. 4, the appeals court reversed the decision of the U.S. District for the Southern District of California and allowed the class action suit to be heard. 

In October 2015, Shavonda Hawkins brought a claim against The Kroger Company claiming that the company placed "misleading labels" on its Kroger brand bread crumbs which is a violation of California law.  Hawkins claims that she purchased the bread crumbs, "by relying on information contained on the face of the label that the product contained '0g Trans Fat per serving.' However, she alleges that those bread crumbs did not contain 0g trans fat per serving and in fact, contained artificial trans fats, and caused heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death.”

According to court documents, "Trans fat has become increasingly recognized as a dangerous substance and a leading cause of numerous serious ailments, including heart disease and diabetes. Food and Drug Administration regulations govern the information reported within a food product’s Nutrition Facts Panel on the product’s label." 

Attorneys for Kroger argued that the company is "preempted by the FDA’s 2015 Final Determination that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer generally recognized as safe because the FDA gave food companies the three-year window before it would begin enforcement of the new determination."

Hawkins claimed that under California law, trans fats in products is illegal and not fit for human consumption. The appellate court ruling not to address those claims in its opinion. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California had dismissed those claims due to "lack of standing because the district court viewed the injuries as too speculative," court documents state.

In her lawsuit, Hawkins claims that she regularly purchased Kroger's bread crumbs at "several Ralph’s locations between 2000 and 2015." She contends that she "relied on the information contained on the face of the label that the product contained 0g trans fat per serving."

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