If there’s one thing that you’d want to be labeled correctly, it’s your food. The US has some of the most stringent food labeling laws in the world, covering everything from nutrition labels to advertising. However, just because rules are in place doesn’t mean that manufacturers are following them. That may be the root of a recent rash of lawsuits regarding “misleading” food labels.
A misleading or false food label can have a significant impact on your health. That’s why it’s crucial for food manufacturers to be honest in their advertising and why it’s so dangerous if they aren’t. Here’s what you need to know about these label lawsuits, how food labels can harm you, and what to do if you suspect misleading advertising is already hurting you.
The Rise in Food Label Lawsuits
The recent lawsuits revolve around allegations of false and misleading advertising by food manufacturers. They cover claims made by manufacturers that are not currently legislated by the FDA. Examples of the claims that have been targeted as misleading include:
- “Safe work environment,” used by a manufacturer who saw four times more workplace infections than its competitors
- “All natural,” used to describe chicken bathed in chemical disinfectants and raised in sheds contaminated with antibiotic-resistant germs
- “Antibiotic-free,” used to describe cheese found to contain trace amounts of antibiotics
These are just a few examples of ways that manufacturers either manipulate or mislead customers into thinking that foods are healthier than they are. The current flurry of lawsuits shows that consumers are fighting back.
It shouldn’t have to be the consumer’s responsibility, of course. The laws around food advertising must be tightened. The Biden administration is taking steps to do that by legislating the use of many common words in advertising.
However, the FDA and FTC are still developing new regulations to prevent companies from misleading customers with words like “healthy” and “natural.” In the meantime, false advertising lawsuits are the best and only way to hold big corporations accountable for their misleading descriptions.
How Deceptive Food Labels Harm Consumers
Food safety and labeling laws are in place for a reason. Poorly labeled foods can cause consumers like you harm in many ways. The three big problems caused by misleading labels include:
It’s possible to be physically allergic to literally any substance. While allergies like peanuts and soy are common and foods are required to clearly label whether they contain these ingredients, other senses don’t need to be listed the same way. This lets companies list ingredients under misleading names, such as:
- Birch sugar instead of the better-known name xylitol, which is poisonous to dogs
- Corn sugar, fruit fructose, or HFCS instead of high-fructose corn syrup, which is linked to obesity
- Galactose instead of milk, which triggers allergies and lactose intolerance
- Autolyzed yeast or yeast extract instead of MSG, which triggers allergies and ME/CFS flares
Even if people aren’t actively allergic to an ingredient, some foods can aggravate certain illnesses. For example, sugar doesn’t need to be listed in many foods if less than 5 grams are present. As a result, many small candies can claim that they’re “sugar-free” despite consisting almost entirely of sugar because they weigh less than 5 grams each. That can cause significant harm to people with diabetes.
Similarly, people with Celiac Disease aren’t allergic to gluten, but they can’t digest it properly. Foods with even trace hints of gluten can cause their digestive system to start attacking itself, causing significant pain and distress. When foods misleadingly present themselves as gluten-free, they can cause Celiac sufferers weeks of health problems.
What You Can Do About False Advertising
Just because false advertising seems to be on the rise doesn’t mean you need to accept it. In fact, the best way to fight back against misleading labels is for individuals to exercise their rights and fight back. If false advertising has caused you to waste money or buy something that could cause you health problems, then you can hold the company accountable. Here’s how:
- Understand false advertising laws. Before you get started, you should read up on the two false advertising laws that are most often used in food lawsuits. The first is Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. This law declares that “unfair or deceptive” advertising acts are illegal, such as leaving out important information or actively deceiving customers. The second is the FDA’s labeling and nutrition guidelines. This collection of rules defines exactly how foods can be labeled and how specific words can be used on products. When you understand these rules, you’ll have a better idea of whether your claim is valid.
- Build your case. Next, you should start collecting evidence for your case. This should include evidence that the advertising or labels were misleading, proof that it affected your choice to purchase the product, and documentation showing that it’s causing harm. These are the three elements necessary for any false advertising claim, food-related or otherwise.
- Get help. Suing a large corporation is a lot of work. If you want the best possible chance of success, you should get legal help. A qualified false advertising attorney will help you collect evidence, file your case and fight it out in court. They can also help you structure your case the right way, whether that’s as an individual lawsuit or a class-action claim.
Fight for Freedom from Food Mislabeling
Everyone should have access to safe, healthy food that won’t trigger allergies or cause illnesses. When manufacturers mislead customers about what’s in their products, they violate that right. You don’t have to put up with that kind of violation, though. If you’ve suffered because of misleading labels, you can fight back with a false advertising claim.
To get started, get in touch with a qualified false advertising attorney. They can help you understand your case and choose the best course of action. Reach out today to schedule your consultation. You shouldn’t have to live in fear of dangerous food. By filing a claim, you can help push back against careless corporations and help keep food safe for everyone.