ConAgra Foods must face a class action by consumers in 11 states claiming its Wesson-brand cooking oils are not “100% natural” but instead are made with bioengineered ingredients, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld class certification of the consumer lawsuit claiming Wesson oils are made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and are thus not natural as the company claims.
ConAgra opposed the class certification arguing that the plaintiffs must demonstrate an administrative means to identify class members prior to certification.
The appeals court held that federal rules neither provide nor imply such a requirement.
“We have never interpreted [federal rules] to require such a showing, and, like the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Circuits, we decline to do so now,” wrote Judge Michelle Friedland.
The class action contends that Wesson-brand cooking oil products labeled as 100 percent natural is actually false and misleading because the products are made with GMOs and thus not natural.
The lawsuit includes consumers who purchased the products from California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota or Texas.
The ruling creates a conflict with other circuits, such as the Third, based in Philadelphia, and some district courts htat have refused to certify classes in similar situations. But the 9th Circuit refused to go along.
The case goes back to the trial court in Los Angeles.
Judges William Fletcher and Morgan Christen joined Friedland.
Case: Briseno v. ConAgra Foods, No. 15-55727