California’s Supreme Court ruled that private citizens in California can file damage suits against produce companies that they believe falsely label their products as organic. This decision overturned a previous ruling that said only the federal government could enforce organic labeling rules.
The ruling centers on a class-action lawsuit in which a consumer accused an herb-growing company, Herb Thyme Farms, of falsely labeling its products as organic when state law prohibits false advertising. A federal law passed in 1990 says private citizens can only file complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Based on this law, a Superior Court judge and an appellate court decided that such lawsuits could interfere with national lawsuits. However, the state’s high court unanimously disagreed and found that private fraud suits filed under state laws promote the goals of national organic regulation.
An attorney who filed arguments on behalf of the Center for Food Safety and the Organic Consumers Association said the high court’s decision is a win not only for consumers but also for organic producers “who are producing products the right way.” However, Herb Thyme Farms argued that private lawsuits could make organic products more expensive or drive them from the market, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. Full Story