On April 26, the United States District Court Northern District of California granted Whole Foods’ motion to dismiss a class action alleging fraud as the plaintiff’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) complaint failed to allege that Whole Foods “made affirmative representations or actionable omissions.”
In their complaint, PETA specifically attacked Whole Foods’ in-store messaging about its “Global Animal Partnership (GAP) 5-Step rating System.” Plaintiffs claimed Whole Foods fraudulently entices customers into paying higher prices on meat by advertising the products as “more humanely treated, higher quality animal product,” when, according to PETA, those claims are unsubstantiated. PETA argued Whole Foods violated several California laws, including the Unfair Competition Law, the Consumers Legal remedies Act, and the state’s False Advertising Law.
Whole Foods countered that PETA failed to plead sufficient facts to establish misrepresentation or “actionable omission.”
The court considered the language contained in Whole Foods’ store signage and napkins and concluded that statements such as “Great-Tasting Meat from Healthy Animals” and “Raised Right Tastes right” are “unspecific and unmeasurable, and therefore constitute puffery.”
PETA also claimed that Whole Foods’ statements such as “No Cages” were actionable misrepresentations because they implied superior practices by Whole Foods. PETA argued Whole Foods had an obligation to inform customers that raising chickens outside of cages is “an industry standard.”
The court, siding with Whole Foods, concluded, “retailers do not have a duty to disclose product information unless it relates to a consumer safety issue.”
The original complaint filed by PETA last September is available here.