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Gin Manufacturer Bacardi Avoids Lawsuit for Its Use of “Grains of Paradise”

A federal judge in the Southern District of Florida recently dismissed an action alleging that Bacardi’s use of a botanical called “grains of paradise” in its gin was “harmful and illegal,” holding that the statute on which the lawsuit was based was preempted by federal law. Marrach v. Bacardi U.S.A, 19-cv-23856 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 28, 2020).

The complaint alleged a violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. While Plaintiff himself suffered no harm from the drink, he cited a nineteenth-century provision forbidding the adulteration of alcoholic beverages with “grains of paradise” to support his claim that Bacardi’s use of the botanical was illegal. However, Bacardi argued in its motion to dismiss that the complaint was preempted because the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) permits the use of “grains of paradise.”

In an opinion that did not mince words, Judge Robert N. Scola granted the motion to dismiss, opening with the observation: “Numerous class actions have greatly benefited society such as Brown v. Board of EducationIn re Exxon Valdez, and In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation. This is not one of those class actions.” He noted that the Food Additives Amendment of 1958 granted the FDA broad authority to monitor and control the introduction of food additives, signaling Congress’s intent to prevent rules unnecessarily prohibiting access to safe food additives. Judge Scola held that the Florida statute, which criminalizes adulterating liquor with grains of paradise, frustrated this purpose and was therefore preempted because it was in conflict with federal law.

Plaintiff attempted to counter this reasoning by arguing that the 21st Amendment gave states the right to regulate liquor, thereby overriding any argument that federal law governed in this matter. Judge Scola disagreed. As an initial matter, “the 21st Amendment does not in any way diminish the reach of the Supremacy Clause,” and therefore has neither the intent nor effect of undermining federal preemption of inconsistent state law. Moreover, Judge Scola noted that other courts have found similar state law prohibitions on food additives to be preempted by the FDCA.

Like previous cases we have covered on this blog, the decision underscores the FDA’s broad regulatory authority over food and beverage products which cannot be circumvented by plaintiffs simply by bringing claims under state law. In doing so, it provides important assurance to manufacturers of such products that their reliance on federal law will not be undercut by arcane state provisions.

© 2020 Proskauer Rose LLP.

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About this Author

Lawrence I Weinstein, False Advertising and Trademark Copywright Law, Proskauer
Partner

Larry Weinstein is a Partner in Proskauer's Litigation Department. He is co-head of the firm’s Intellectual Property Litigation Group, and also co-head of the firm’s False Advertising & Trademark Practice. Larry is both a distinguished trial lawyer and counselor, whose practice covers a broad spectrum of intellectual property law, including Lanham Act false advertising and trademark cases, consumer class action cases, NAD and FTC proceedings, and trade secret and copyright litigations, as well as sports, art and other complex commercial cases.

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Carl Mazurek Litigation Law Clerk
Law Clerk

Carl Mazurek is a law clerk in the Litigation Department. His area of concentration in the firm is litigation law. Carl Mazuerk is a contributing author for the firm's blog content. 

Education 

  • New York University School of Law, J.D., 2017
  • University of Cambridge, Ph.D., 2014
  • University of Cambridge, M.Phil., 2009
  • McGill University, B.A., 2007
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Monique Curry law clerk Proskauer
Law Clerk

Monique Curry received her J.D. cum laude from Howard University School of Law, where she served as a senior notes and comments editor for the Howard Law Journal.  While at Howard, Monique also served as a student attorney in the Civil and Human Rights Clinic and was a Dean’s Fellow for the Legal Writing Department. 

Monique received her B.S. from Towson University in Sport Management.

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