Nestlé USA, Inc. finds itself as the defendant in a proposed class action filed in California federal court. The 18-page lawsuit centers on Nestlé products stamped with a “No GMO Ingredients” certificate of approval on their packaging. While this endorsement has the appearance of being granted by an independent third party, the case alleges that this is wholly untrue. Instead, according to the lawsuit, the “No GMO Ingredients” stamp comes from Nestlé itself.
“No GMO Ingredients™ is not a designation bestowed by a non-profit group, or even a neutral third party, but instead is the creation of [the defendant],” the complaint states. “In other words, the No GMO Ingredients™ seal of approval is nothing more than [Nestlé] touting its own Products.”
Tell me more.
The lawsuit points out that with the rise of consumers’ preference for non-GMO products, a cottage industry has developed around third-party validation companies that review the ingredients in food to ensure they do not contain genetically modified organisms or come from animals fed GMO-laden food. Obtaining a third party’s approval, the suit continues, is a decided advantage for companies looking to get a leg up in an already over-saturated natural food marketplace.
According to the lawsuit, Nestlé intentionally developed a seal that mimics those of independent verifiers – specifically the Non-GMO Project. Perhaps the most prominent third-party validation group, the Non-GMO Project is a Washington-based organization that verifies that ingredients are not derived from GMO crops, or milk or meat from GMO-fed animals, the lawsuit says. You can see below that Nestlé’s “No GMO Ingredients” seal (Image 2) is noticeably similar to the Non-GMO Project’s stamp (Image 1).
Does the case say anything about the actual ingredients in Nestlé’s products?
The case claims that some ingredients found in Nestlé products stamped with the “No GMO Ingredients” seal are, in fact, derived from genetically modified organisms, an express violation of the Non-GMO Project’s standard governing which products are allowed to bear its seal. From the complaint (emphasis from the lawsuit):
For example, [the defendant’s] Products that contain dairy come from cows fed GMO grains. This violates the Non-GMO Project standard, which does not allow for its seal of approval to be placed on dairy based products that could be from animals fed GMO feed.”
Importantly, the lawsuit notes that Nestlé’s standard reportedly allows for the use of GMO feed for dairy animals, where the Non-GMO Project’s code does not.
By using its own “No GMO Ingredients” seal, Nestlé effectively creates confusion for and deceives consumers, the case alleges.
Who’s covered by this lawsuit?
The lawsuit looks to certify a class of consumers nationwide who purchased any Nestlé products bearing the “No GMO Ingredients” seal within the last few years.
What can I do to join this lawsuit?
For almost all class action lawsuits, you don’t have to do anything to be a part of the case. What’s important is to stay informed so that you can take action when and if the case settles. ClassAction.org will keep you posted as this case winds its way through the legal system.