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Ben & Jerry’s Sued Over “Happy Cows” Claim

On October 29, 2019, Plaintiff James Ehlers, a former Vermont gubernatorial candidate, filed a proposed class action complaint in the federal U.S. District Court in Vermont.  In the complaint, the Plaintiff alleges that Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company, Unilever, (collectively “Defendants”) falsely advertised that the milk and cream in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream products come exclusively from “happy cows.”  The lawsuit accuses the Defendants of breach of express warranty, unjust enrichment, and violating the Vermont Consumer Protection Act, which declares unlawful all “[u]nfair methods of competition in commerce and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in commerce.”

In the complaint, the Plaintiff argues that Defendants “breached consumer trust” by representing that the milk and cream in their products were sourced from cows on dairies that participate in Ben & Jerry’s “Caring Dairy Program.”  Ben & Jerry’s “Caring Dairy Program” offers farmers a program for “evaluating, implementing and continuously improving sustainable agricultural practices on their farms.”  Although the Plaintiff acknowledges that Ben & Jerry’s products are made from milk that comes from farms participating in the “Caring Dairy Program,” he alleges that products are also made with milk from cows on “factory-style, mass-production dairy operations.”  Ehlers alleges that Defendants acted “unfairly and deceptively…by omitting information about the percentage of milk and cream in Ben & Jerry’s Products that originates from regular factory-style, mass-production dairy operations.”

The plaintiff seeks damages for ice cream purchasers nationwide, and to stop Ben & Jerry’s from claiming its milk and cream came from “happy cows.”  We will continue to monitor this case as well as other interesting class action lawsuits that target the food industry.

© 2020 Keller and Heckman LLPNational Law Review, Volume IX, Number 318


About this Author

Keller and Heckman offers global food and drug services to its clients. Our comprehensive and extensive food and drug practice is one of the largest in the world. We promote, protect, and defend products made by the spectrum of industries regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Commission and Member States authorities in the European Union (EU) and similar authorities throughout the world. The products we help get to market include foods, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, veterinary products, dietary supplements, and cosmetics. In addition...