In the ongoing and seemingly never-ending litigation involving false labeling, the question of what (and where) information should be put on product labels has been vexing food and beverage companies for over a decade. Indeed, the "reasonable consumer" standard, which is the measure by which these cases are usually decided, seems to raise more questions than it answers.
This article by two lawyers from the Sheppard Mullin firm provides some of the best advice I've seen to answer this question. Obviously, the analysis begins and sometimes ends with what appears on the front of the product label. But context, and what appears elsewhere on the label (including the back and the "fine print"), matters as well. The recent decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that is discussed in this article provides some helpful guidelines for companies to follow.
The key, of course, is the label itself. While false labeling claims are probably unavoidable, if everything on the label is accurate and supported by valid substantiation, that is the best defense food and beverage companies can employ to defeat these claims.
Despite the availability of information accurately describing ingredients and attributes, hundreds of false labeling class actions are filed each year. This raises the question: What must a consumer read on a product label?