The US Supreme Court has held that the specific labeling rules in the FDCA and the generalized proscription of unfair competition and false advertising from the Lanham Act are both operative and, indeed, complementary with respect to competitor challenges to allegedly misleading labels on FDA-regulated food and beverage products. The decision in POM Wonderful, LLC v. The Coca Cola Company holds that the Lanham Act—with its market-based, private-enforcement and commercial attributes—can and should play an important role and provides competitors a cause of action and a remedy. In recognizing a Lanham Act claim, the decision dramatically changes, for challenges to labels brought by a competitor, the fundamental principles that the FDCA is the exclusive source for rules governing many aspects of food labels, and that the FDCA’s technical labeling rules are both the “floor” and the “ceiling.” The Court was careful, however, to limit the decision to the tension between the Lanham Act (not state consumer protection laws) and the FDCA, and to competitor (not consumer) suits. Accordingly, the decision does not affect the much larger legal landscape regarding consumer protection class action lawsuits under state law dogging the food and beverage industry. Preemption and uniformity arguments in those actions will continue to apply in the same manner as before.

Please join Dale Giali and Richard Katskee as they analyze the decision and discuss its impact on the business of food labeling and competitor and consumer class action challenges to labels.
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