Austin-based Whole Foods Market Inc. may not have received notice that it’s being sued; you will probably choose your words carefully when you reply.
That’s because the complaint against Whole Foods is mostly about words.
“This consumer fraud action concerns Whole Foods’ material misrepresentations and omissions regarding the use of antibiotics in the beef it sells,” according to the plaintiffs’ filing. “Whole Foods markets its beef with the slogan ‘No Antibiotics, Ever’ and reinforces this promotional message that its beef is antibiotic-free with other similar representations in retail stores, online marketing and product packaging.”
A Portland, OR-based organization that campaigns against “factory farms” is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Whole Foods. “Farm Forward” claims “independent testing.” has found antibiotics and other pharmaceutical “residues,” rendering Whole Foods’ claims that it sells only antibiotic-free beef false.
According to the lawsuit, the slogan “No antibiotics, ever” allows Whole Foods to charge premium prices for its beef, defrauding consumers.
“Consumers overpaid and suffered financial harm as a result of Whole Foods’ deceptive promotion of its meat products,” it says. “Whole Foods charges, and consumers pay, a substantial price premium for beef products based on the claim that the cattle that are made into these Products did not receive any antibiotics.
“For example, Whole Foods charges $31.99 per pound for beef tenderloin filet mignon. A traditional retailer charges only $24.99 per pound for the same cut of meat. Therefore, Whole Foods increases the price of this beef product by 28 percent relative to its antibiotic-free representations.
“The consumer plaintiffs would not have purchased beef products, or paid the prices they did, if they had known the truth that the cattle used in the products were raised on antibiotics.”
The individual plaintiffs are Sara Safari, Peymon Khaghani and Jason Rose, Whole Foods customers of Orange County, CA. The lawsuit seeks certification as a class action filing and requests a jury trial.
While primarily seeking financial compensation, the complaint raises a significant food safety issue.
“The administration of routine or subtherapeutic antibiotics to farm animals creates serious health risks,” the complaint says. “It contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in animals, bacteria that meat eaters eventually ingest. Once in the human system, these bacteria can cause infections that cannot be treated with existing antibiotics because the bacteria are resistant to the antibiotics”.
The civil action is filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California. He was assigned to the South Division of the Court.
The plaintiffs want an injunction requiring Whole Foods to correct and clarify its “past and current misrepresentations and omissions” and to remove the misrepresentations or, alternatively, ensure that Whole Foods beef products conform to the way in which who sells them.
The complaint says that Whole Foods has used the slogan “No antibiotics, ever” since 2002. Many other allegations and various causes of action are set forth in the complaint. Whole Foods has 21 days after service to file its initial response.
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