Conagra Cooking Oil Class Action Lawsuit To Proceed After SCOTUS Refuses To Hear Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review a class action lawsuit against Conagra, which alleges that the company falsely advertised Wesson cooking oil as “100% Natural,” despite the inclusion of genetically modified organisms (GMO), meaning the case will proceed forward. 

The decision by the nation’s highest court came this week, in a complaint originally filed in 2011 by Robert Briseno, of California, which has been pending on appeal for years.

Briseno alleged that Conagra deceived consumers by calling its cooking oil an “all-natural” product, which raises allegations of false marketing that are similar to other class action lawsuits filed against other companies in recent years.

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Following 2015 decision by a California federal judge that allowed the case to proceed, which was later upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Conagra petitioned the Supreme Court earlier this year to hear the case. Conagra argued that the FDA has never defined exactly what “natural” means for food labeling.

As a result of Supreme Court refusal to consider the appeal, the lower court decisions still stand, and the Conagra cooking oil class action lawsuit will return back to the U.S. District Court.

Other groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, argued in favor of Conagra’s position, indicating that after this period of time, it would be impossible to prove who had purchased the cooking oil and who had not.

Since the Conagra case was first filed, there have been a string of lawsuits over products that use genetically modified crop ingredients but call themselves all-natural. In recent months, many of those cases have focused on the use of so-called “Roundup Ready” genetically modified crops by Monsanto, which are genetically altered to be resistant to the popular weed killer and its active ingredient, glyphosate.

Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup, also faces a growing number of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer lawsuits brought by agricultural workers who were exposed to large amounts of the herbicide, alleging that inadequate warnings and safety instructions were provided about the importance of limiting exposure while spraying.

While those cases are not focused on health risks associated with consumption of Roundup contaminated foods, a number of class action lawsuits have been filed against food companies which label food that has been exposed to glyphosate or glyphosate-sprayed crops as “all natural,” raising similar allegations that practice is deceptive.

Sue Bee honey class action lawsuit was filed in January after traces of glyphosate were detected in the honey, and Post Foods faces a Shredded Wheat class action lawsuit filed in June 2016 over the use of grain treated with Roundup as well.

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