Campbell Soup Company (“Campbell”) has moved to dismiss a putative class action lawsuit alleging that Campbell’s Chunky™ Healthy Request® Grilled Chicken & Sausage Gumbo Soup product is falsely and misleadingly advertised as “healthy” because it contains partially hydrogenated oils (PHO’s, i.e. artificial trans fats) that are harmful to human health.
In its motion, Campbell argues that the USDA’s review and pre-approval process for labels pre-empts the suit because that regulatory framework specifically looks at whether labels are false or misleading and includes “pervasive” regulations relating to “healthy” claims. Campbell contends that these regulations — as propounded pursuant to the Poultry Products Inspection Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act — prohibit any consumer protection claims under state law.
Ultimately, the key question will be whether the Court accepts that the suit seeks to impose requirements on “approved labels” that add to, or differ from USDA’s requirements relating to “healthy” claims. In some cases, courts have rejected preemption arguments on the grounds that the lawsuit seeks to help, rather than hinder, the federal objectives. But Defendants may have an uphill claim to the extent the court agrees with Campbell that its labels fully comply with USDA regulations for “healthy” claims, which do not expressly prohibit the existence of trans fats.