‘A watershed ruling…’ Case challenging Hormel ‘Natural Choice’ claims can proceed, rules appeals court

‘A watershed ruling…’ Case challenging Hormel ‘Natural Choice’ claims can proceed, rules appeals court


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In a decision described as a “watershed ruling for consumer protection of all types​” by animal rights group the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the District of Columbia Court of Appeals has revived a case* filed in 2016 by ALDF accusing Hormel Foods of falsely advertising lunch meats and bacon as a ‘Natural Choice.’

‘We reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand for further proceedings’

Hormel had originally prevailed in the case, with the DC Superior Court finding that the ALDF’s claims were pre-empted by federal meal labeling laws and that the nonprofit lacked standing to bring suit vs Hormel.

However, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals begged to differ on both counts, and has just determined that the ALDF does have standing to bring the case and that claims about Hormel’s print and digital advertising​ are not impacted by federal meat labeling laws.

“Federal label laws do not pre-empt ALDF’s claims, which attack only Hormel’s advertisements beyond its product labels, and not the labels themselves.”

USDA may have approved the label for the Natural Choice products (which are treated with high pressure processing (HPP) and use celery juice powder – which naturally contains nitrites and nitrates – for curing), added the court, but that doesn’t automatically mean that “whatever claims pass USDA scrutiny for labeling purposes are necessarily fair game to broadcast in all manner of advertisements… We reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand for further proceedings.”

ALDF: ‘Consumers deserve transparency into industrial animal agriculture’

Hormel – which claims the lawsuit is “baseless​” and that its HPP-treated Natural Choice meats are distinct from other packaged deli meats as they don’t contain ‘chemical’ preservatives or ‘artificial ingredients’ – did not immediately respond to our request for comment on the ruling.



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