Chobani Sued Over “Fair Trade” Claims
On July 12, 2021, private plaintiffs filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against Chobani LLC. The plaintiffs allege that Chobani misrepresented its certification from Fair Trade USA, leading plaintiffs to overpay for Chobani’s products because they believed in the certification labeling.
Chobani became the first in the U.S. dairy industry to be certified with the Fair Trade USA seal of approval in May 2021. Fair Trade USA is a nonprofit that grants and sets standards for the fair trade label. However, the suit claims that Chobani’s immigrant laborers work in “dangerous conditions,” dealing with hazards including slippery surfaces, aggressive cows, and heavy machinery being poorly operated on dairy farms in upstate New York. The complaint relies on a nonprofit worker groups’ report that states dairy workers did not succeed in getting Chobani’s support in unionization efforts at farms from which Chobani purchases milk.
Chobani stated that the lawsuit is meritless and makes “unfounded attacks on Fair Trade USA, one of the most highly-regarded third-party verification programs for environmental, social and economic standards.” This lawsuit is the most recent action filed by Sheehan & Associates, which has been prolific in recent years in lawsuits against food companies.