Monthly Archives: May 2015

My Q&A with Food Manufacturing on Food Labeling Issues

It was my pleasure to participate in a Q&A with Food Manufacturing Magazine to provide an update and insight on significant labeling issues, which can be found here.

My Article in Food Safety Magazine on Court Ruling That Vermont’s GE-Labeling Requirement Will Move Forward

Please see my article in Food Safety Magazine located HERE.

Court Dismisses Suit Against Maker’s Mark Over “Handmade” Claims

I previously wrote about the lawsuit against Maker’s Mark regarding claims that its bourbon is “handmade.”   The complaint alleged that the “handmade” claims were false or misleading because “Defendant actually employs mechanized and/or automated processes to manufacture and bottle its whisky, including but not limited to, (1) the process involved in grinding / breaking up the grains;
(2) the process involved in mixing the grains with other ingredients, such as yeast and water; (3) the process involved in transferring this mixture into its fermenting location; and, (4) the process involved in bottling the whisky.”

On May 1, 2015, the Court dismissed plaintiffs’ complaint as a matter of law, because “nobody could believe a bourbon marketed this widely at this volume is made entirely or predominantly by hand.”   Significantly, plaintiffs were unable to articulate a plausible and consistent definition of “handmade” in this context, especially since they had to concede that it could not mean “made entirely by hand.”  In this regard, the court held that “[n]o reasonable person would understand ‘handmade’ in this context to mean substantial equipment was not used.”  And [i]f ‘handmade’ means only made from scratch, or in small units, or in a carefully monitored process, then the plaintiffs have alleged no facts plausibly suggesting the statement is untrue.”

Ultimately, the court found that “handmade” in this context was little more than “a general, undefined statement” that, even if it connotes greater value, is mere “puffery” and could not support plaintiffs’ claims “detached from any factual representation.”  As the court observed,”One might as easily label a bourbon ‘smooth’ or say it is made with the same skill and care as has been used for decades.”

Please see the complete opinion HERE.  The ruling is compelling and will likely sway courts handling similar claims, including the Tito’s Vodka case I previously discussed where a similar motion to dismiss is pending.