December 6, 2022

Volume XII, Number 340


December 05, 2022

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Class Action Alleges Feta Cheese Made in USA Misleadingly Suggests European Origin

 Feta Maker’s ‘Greek’ Claim Crumbles On Inspection, Suit Says 

  • A plaintiff’s success in one of the proliferating class action lawsuits over geographic origin hinges on whether the front label of the product at issue would lead a reasonable consumer to believe the product is made in a place other than where it is.  Explicit use of a country name in such case may doom the defendant.  In a lawsuit settled by Godiva Chocolatier, Inc. (“Godiva”), discussed here, for example, “Belgium 1926” was found to have created a plausible inference that the chocolates are of European origin.  In contrast, however, for a yoghurt made in New York with a front label containing the “Icelandic Provisions” brand name and the phrase “Traditional Icelandic Skyr” against a snow-covered backdrop, a court found references to “Icelandic” to be akin to “in the style of Iceland,” which signals that the product is not made in the place that is named.

  • On August 14, 2022, plaintiffs filed a putative class action complaint against Lactalis America Group Inc. in the United States District Court Western District of New York that alleges the labeling of Président brand feta cheese gives the false impression that the product is made in Greece, or at the very least in another European country.  Facts that allegedly create the inference of Greek or European origin are:

    • “Feta” rendered in ancient-Greek font;

    • A gold olive branch framing the brand name, Président; and

    • The slogan, “Europe’s Leading Cheese Expert” over the top of the brand name.

The complaint also notes that the statements “created by a family of artisan cheesemakers with over 80 years of French heritage” and “Dist. By Lactalis American Group, Inc.” appear in small print on the bottom of the package, and contend that the United States origin of the product can be discovered by visiting third-party websites noting the product is “Freshly Crafted in the USA” and “Made in the European tradition.”

  • Since the complaint only presents one side of the dispute, it is difficult to predict how this case will turn out.  Keller and Heckman will continue to monitor and report on this litigation.

Nicholas Prust and Frederick Stearns also contributed to this article. 

© 2022 Keller and Heckman LLPNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 234

About this Author

Lisa P. Alsobrook Attorney Keller Heckman DC Office

Lisa Alsobrook practices in the area of food and drug law. She advises domestic and foreign clients on regulatory requirements for foods, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and food and drug packaging in jurisdictions around the world. Her main focus is regulatory and compliance matters of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture relating to human food, food packaging material, animal feed, food additives and ingredients, and dietary supplements.

Prior to attending law school, Lisa earned a master’s degree in Food Science. She worked as a...

Melvin S. Drozen, FDA, regulatory lawyer, Keller Heckman, law firm

Melvin S. Drozen joined Keller and Heckman in 1987.

Mr. Drozen advises clients on a broad spectrum of FDA, FTC, USDA and EPA (pesticides) regulatory matters, ranging from premarket approval requirements for food additives, dietary supplement ingredients, drugs, and medical devices to advertising and labeling provisions applicable to all of these products. Prior to joining Keller and Heckman, he was an Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., and then an attorney in the General Counsel's Office of the Food and Drug Administration for seven...

Jill M Mahoney Associate Attorney Keller Heckman

Jill Mahoney advises clients on regulatory requirements for food, animal feed, food additives, dietary supplements, and cosmetics. She counsels clients on labeling and advertising compliance and claims substantiation issues, including nutrition labeling, ingredient declarations, nutrient content claims, structure function claims, and Country of Origin labeling. She assists food, animal feed, and dietary supplement manufacturers in preparing self-determined GRAS positions, GRAS Notifications for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) submissions, New Dietary Ingredient Notification submissions...

Richard Mann Partner Keller Heckman DC

Richard (Rick) Mann represents his clients in business and trade association disputes relating to food advertising, promotional and labeling claims, food safety and compliance issues, and general business and corporate law matters.

Rick works extensively with clients in the development of compliant advertising, promotional, and labeling claims and campaigns, and the development of appropriate support for such claims. His regulatory experience allows him to represent his clients in proceedings at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the National...

Paula S. Pastuskovas San Francisco Food and Drug Attorney Keller and Heckman

Paula Pastuskovas counsels domestic and international clients on regulatory and compliance matters in food and drug law. She assists clients in obtaining regulatory clearances for food additives and food-contact materials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health Canada, and other comparable international agencies. She advises clients on food labeling, ingredient, and substantiation issues. 

As a resident of the firm’s San Francisco office, Paula also advises companies on compliance with California’s state and local laws. This...