SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge has suspended proceedings on a class action that accuses Trader Joe’s of violating food labeling regulations, particularly in using the phrase “evaporated cane juice.”
U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria ruled on Aug. 8 that claims by Amy Gitson et al. should be stayed while the Food and Drug Administration reviews its position on the term “evaporated cane juice.”
The plaintiffs claimed in their March 2013 lawsuit that Trader Joe’s products are misleadingly labeled. As evidence, the plaintiffs submitted warning letters to Trader Joes from the Food and Drug Administration that said ingredients should be listed by their common names – “evaporated cane juice,” for instance, is a sweetener derived from sugar cane syrup.
Chhabria ruled that because the FDA is reviewing its guidelines on the term for the first time since 2009, the court should withhold judgment. If the FDA does not make a decision or if the process takes too long, the court will reconsider its stay.
“Because it would be a waste of judicial and party resources to carry out this lawsuit piecemeal, the plaintiff’s other claims are also stayed,” he wrote.
The judge also denied an interlocutory appeal filed in March by Trader Joe’s. The company took issue with the plaintiffs’ decision to make claims based on foods they didn’t purchase, but are similar to ones they did.
Chhabria ruled that because the case is focused on labels, which take a common form, establishing any of the labels as misleading would suffice.
The plaintiffs will be allowed to continue with class allegations.
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