(CN) – Dairy consumers can proceed with their claim that Aurora Dairy Corp. and several national retailers falsely labeled their milk by misrepresenting “the manner in which the dairy cows were raised and fed,” the 8th Circuit ruled.
Organic milk drinkers filed 19 class actions against Aurora Dairy, its certifying agent, QAI Inc., and stores that sold Aurora’s milk, such as Costco, Wal-Mart, Safeway, Wild Oats and Target. The stores sold the milk as organic under their own brands or under Aurora’s High Meadow brand.
Consumers said the defendants failed to comply with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and the National Organic Program.
They also accused the defendants of falsely advertising the idyllic conditions under which the dairy cows supposedly lived. For example, Safeway stated that its cows “enjoy a healthy mix of fresh air, exercise, clean drinking water, and a wholesome, 100 percent certified organic diet.”
A federal judge dismissed the lawsuits, ruling that the state-law claims were precluded by federal law.
The federal appeals court in St. Louis largely upheld that ruling, citing the federal law’s purpose of overriding the previously conflicting state laws governing organic foods.
However, the three-judge panel allowed consumers to proceed with their false advertising claims.
Chief Judge William Jay Riley dismissed all claims against QAI, but said the remaining defendants must face the false advertising allegations on remand.