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WHOLE FOODS' CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT

Consequences of Inaccurate Label Claims

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Whole Foods’ Lawsuit Regarding Sugar Amount in Yogurt

Whole Foods Market Inc. recently found itself in a lawsuit regarding the sugar content in their store brand 365 Everyday Value Plain Greek yogurt. The class-action lawsuit, which was filed in early August 2014 in the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey claims that Whole Foods knowingly sold its yogurt to consumers that had six times the amount of sugar stated on its nutritional label. The lawsuit cited data by Consumer Reports published in July 2014 claiming that test results on the yogurt showed that it contained 11.4g of sugar per 225g serving, approximately six times the amount (2g) listed on it’s nutritional label. The lawsuit also alleged that even though Whole Foods knew about these tests, they still kept their yogurt and its original nutritional label on the shelves for consumer to buy.

While Whole Foods have been successful with bringing many high quality food products to consumers and have faced lawsuits in the past, this yogurt sugar lawsuit may not be the only case that Whole Foods will have to defend.

Whole Foods’ Latest Lawsuit Concerning Homeopathy Products

Whole Foods’ latest class-action lawsuit, as reported by Law360, was filed in Florida in mid-August 2014 regarding their homeopathy products: Cough Ease for Kids, Cough Ease, Flu Ease, and Arnica Montana 30C. The complaint: health claims that include being able to treat the flu, cough, and other symptoms, seen front and center on the product’s label, were neither scientifically proven nor FDA approved. Boasting controversial claims on these “homeopathic medicine” products, which serve as an attractive (and less expensive) option to pricey prescription drugs, has deceived consumers into buying millions of dollars of these natural products. The complaint also claims that some of the ingredients are toxic and “so diluted” that they have virtually no impact on the human body. Currently, homeopathy products are not subject to the same FDA rules as non-homeopathy OTC products.

Why the FDA Does Not Test Homeopathy Products

Homeopathy products are regulated by the FDA but, just like supplements, are not held to the same strict rules that over-the-counter and prescription drugs must abide by. This is because the homeopathic drugs have highly diluted or little active ingredients, and the FDA does not feel that its impact can be a huge concern. Even though the FDA does regulate homeopathy products like drugs, “the FDA does not evaluate the remedies for safety and effectiveness.”

According to the FDA, “The practice of homeopathy is based on the belief that disease symptoms can be cured by small doses of substances which produce similar symptoms in healthy people.”

Below are definitions provided by the FDA:

  1. Homeopathy: The practice of treating the syndromes and conditions which constitute disease with remedies that have produced similar syndromes and conditions in healthy subjects.
  2. Homeopathic Drug: Any drug labeled as being homeopathic which is listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States (HPUS), an addendum to it, or its supplements. The potencies of homeopathic drugs are specified in terms of dilution, i.e., 1x (1/10 dilution), 2x (1/100 dilution), etc. Homeopathic drug products must contain diluents commonly used in homeopathic pharmaceutics. Drug products containing homeopathic ingredients in combination with non-homeopathic active ingredients are not homeopathic drug products.

According to three independent reviews assessing the beneficial effects of homeopathic drugs, the homeopathic drugs were more effective than placebo. One review, however, showed that homeopathic drugs were just as effective as placebo. Available evidence suggests that homeopathic drugs may help treat influenza, allergies, postoperative ileus, and childhood diarrhea but are not effective for migraine, delayed-onset muscle soreness, and influenza prevention. None of these reviews are conclusive and will need further testing to show the true effectiveness and safety of homeopathic drugs.

Pending the result of the class action suit, only time will tell if consumers can battle misleading label claims that have plagued the supplement, and now, the homeopathic medicine industries. This lawsuit also sets the stage for consumers to demand stricter homeopathic product oversight from the FDA. This is a move that will highly benefit consumers as they demand transparency for the products they consume.

Sources

  1. Header Image: Job Mouse (Flickr)
  2. Co-author: Shoua Kue
  3. Whole Foods Slapped with $5M Homeopathy Class Action - Law360
  4. Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations - U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  5. Homeopathy: an Introduction - National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  6. A Critical Overview of Homeopathy - Annals of Internal Medicine
  7. Whole Foods Hit with Pa. Labeling Suit Over Sugar in Yogurt
     

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