Video Transcript: What Laws Protect You From Mislabeled Food?
Consumers in the United States are protected by federal legislation and case law. The Lanham Act, a federal statute, seeks to ensure proper food labeling through various measures. The law prohibits use of any word, term, name, symbol, or device in any product description or package to falsely describe misrepresent food ingredients. Historically, the Lanham Act has been applied to competitors.
However, it does benefit consumers by promoting more accurate food labeling, which federal courts have relied on in important cases. For example, in June 2014, the US Supreme Court delivered an opinion in the case of juice maker POM Wonderful v. Coca-Cola that is considered to be very pro-consumer. POM Wonderful filed a lawsuit under the Lanham Act, claiming that Coca-Cola’s labeling of its blueberry pomegranate drink was misleading, since it primarily contained apple and grape juice. In its defense, Coca-Cola argued that its labeling complied with FDA rules for blended juices, and that the Lanham Act was incompatible with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and the FDA’s corresponding regulations. In a rare unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court held that the Lanham Act and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act are not incompatible. As a result, it’s much easier for businesses to sue when one of their competitors engages in illegal advertising. This in turn helps protect consumers.