Plaintiffs Ask Court Not to Dismiss Natural Cheese Lawsuit Against Kraft Heinz

The plaintiffs in a Northern District of California, Oakland Division lawsuit filed an opposition on Thursday to the defendant’s motion to dismiss alleging that cheese produced by the Kraft Heinz Company is falsely advertised by being labeled natural because milk produced with artificial growth hormones was used as an ingredient.

Kraft Heinz argued in September that the court should dismiss the class-action complaint because the company was not accused of adding unnatural ingredients, but of using milk from cows who had been given growth hormones. They said “natural cheese” generally means cheese that was made from milk, like Kraft Heinz’s cheese, rather than processed. The motion to dismiss also said that consumers would not typically take the “natural cheese” claim to mean that no cow involved in the process was given a growth hormone. 

The plaintiffs, Sylvia Koh and David Green, in their memorandum in opposition of the dismissal, disputed this claim, arguing that reasonable consumers would expect growth hormones to not be present in cheese which was claiming to be natural. They cited a previous case from the same court which held that consumers expect that products labeled as natural are not made with any use of artificial hormones. The opposition also claimed that the defendant cited unofficial FDA guidance on the definition of “natural” with respect to cheese, which is not actual consumer opinion. 

Koh and Green said that Kraft Heinz has admitted that rbST, which was given to the cows producing milk for the accused cheese, is an “artificial hormone,” that a majority of its consumers do not want artificial hormones in its cheese, and that most of its products are produced without them. The opposition said that “Kraft’s position is indefensible” and that the plaintiff’s allegations are supported by consumer research and case law.  

The plaintiffs asked the court again to certify its national class, claiming that they had standing to represent the class. 

The motion to dismiss is set to be heard on December 18, Thursday’s opposition included a request for oral arguments and a jury trial. The plaintiffs, Sylvia Koh and David Green, are represented by Richman Law Group and Kraft Heinz is represented by Sidley Austin.