Courts Disagree on Federal Preemption of “Organic” Labeling; Chair of Rose Law Group Class Action Department, Katie Honecker discusses

By Erin Louise Palmer | American Bar Association

Federal law does not preempt state law claims challenging “organic” labeling of food and body care products, according to Segedie v. Hain Celestial Group, Inc.. In Segedie, the district court held that the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) and the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations preempt California and New York state law claims related to “organic” labeling. In reaching this conclusion, the district court rejected the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit‘s decision in Aurora Dairy Corp. Organic Milk Marketing & Sales Practices Litigation.

Section leaders dispute whether state law challenges to “organic” labeling uphold the purposes of the OFPA or instead allow consumers to circumvent the statute. “By not addressing relief for consumers who purchase mislabeled products, Congress neither expressly prohibited states from providing their own relief nor drafted the statute in a manner so as to ‘occupy the field,” concludes Kathryn A. Honecker, Scottsdale, AZ, cochair of the ABA Section of Litigation‘s Class Actions & Derivative Suits Committee. “State statutes that provide a means for misled consumers to secure restitution or other relief advance the purpose of and further motivate manufacturers to comply with the OFPA,” adds Honecker.

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Katie Honecker can be reached at khonecker@roselawgroup.com