Costco Defeats Class Action Over Watery Canned Chicken

MANHATTAN (CN) – A federal judge dismissed a class action accusing Costco of defrauding consumers by packing its house brand of canned chicken with more than 40 percent water.

Costco’s Kirkland Signature Premium Chunk Chicken Breast is sold in 12.5 ounce cans, labeled “Packed in Water.”

When the can is drained, it contains on 7 to 8 ounces of meat, lead plaintiff Mary La Vigne said in the August 2016 complaint. She said the discarded water is not intended for consumption, as the nutrition facts on the can list a serving size as “2 oz drained” and recipes on the label instruct consumers to drain the can before using.

La Vigne claims that Costco misleads consumers into buying a can of chicken that actually is two-fifths “useless water.”

But U.S. District Judge Nelson S. Román was not persuaded.

“Given the clear disclosure on the bulk packaging and each individual can that the chicken is packed in water, as well as the indication under the Nutrition Facts label that a serving of the product is calculated on a ‘drained’ weight basis, it seems clear that a reasonable consumer would understand a can of Kirkland Canned Chicken to contain both chicken and some amount of water,” Román wrote in his Wednesday ruling.

Many courts have found that a reasonable consumer cannot expect to purchase a certain amount of a product solely based on the size of the package or can, Román said. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) approved the label.

“A jury’s finding for plaintiffs would directly conflict with the FSIS’s assessment, in which case it would introduce requirements in addition to or different from those imposed by the PPIA [Poultry Products Inspection Act] and its corresponding regulations,” Román wrote.

He found the state law claims pre-empted by federal law and dismissed the case.

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