Lilly v. ConAgra Foods

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Preemption
  • Date Filed: 02-20-2014
  • Case #: 12-55921
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Silverman for the Court; Circuit Judge Hurwitz and Senior District Judge Vinson
  • Full Text Opinion

When state law requirements for nutrition labeling do not "stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of [the federal law's] full purpose and objectives" the state laws cannot be preempted.

Aleta Lilly brought a class action against ConAgra because their sunflower seed sodium content on the nutrition labels only counted for the kernel, not the coating of salt on the outside of the shell. In district court, Lilly argued that the alleged misrepresentation violated California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act, the False Advertising Laws, and the Unfair Competition Law. ConAgra moved to dismiss based on federal preemption; it argued that the enforcement of the state laws would "impose food labeling requirements different than those required by federal law." The district court ruled in favor of ConAgra and dismissed the claim based on federal preemption, specifically under the federal Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, a 1990 amendment to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Lilly appealed to the Ninth Circuit. ConAgra argued that because "FDA regulations state that manufacturers need not include the amount of sodium on 'inedible components,' the California Law is stricter, and therefore violates 21 U.S.C. 343-1(a)(5) which prohibits any state from establishing "any requirement for the labeling of food that is not identical." The panel reversed the district court's ruling by determining that the coating outside of the shells are "an edible portion of food," should be counted in nutrition information, and therefore the California laws are not preempted because they are not any different than the federal laws. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

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