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Consumer Product Matters

A product safety and consumer related regulation and litigation blog

Reexamination of “Healthy” Continues with an FDA Public Meeting in March 2017

Posted in Advertising, Federal Regulations, Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Food and Beverage, Product Class Actions

As we’ve previously reported, FDA has signaled its interest in reviewing the scope and meaning of the nutrient content claim “healthy,” in part as result of a dispute with KIND LLC about label claims for its KIND Bar products. Then last fall FDA released a new guidance document on what constitutes a “healthy” food and proper labeling of such foods, and the Agency simultaneously requested public input on a significant number of questions related to use of this particular claim.

Last week, FDA announced two actions that are intended to further advance this public consultation process for “healthy” label claims. First, it has extended the comment period that was initiated in October with the release of the draft guidance document until April 26, 2017. And it is convening a public meeting to discuss the use of the term “healthy” in the labeling of human food products, in part to further the feedback that may be received during this ongoing comment period. Continue Reading

CPSC Begins Transition: Ann Marie Buerkle is Now the Acting Chairman of the Agency

Posted in Consumer Product Safety, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)

CommissionerBuerkle370x500This morning it was announced internally at the CPSC that Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle has become the Acting Chairman of the agency. The CPSC has not yet released a statement concerning the transition of the chairmanship from Elliot Kaye to Ann Marie Buerkle, but we have confirmed the change in leadership with multiple sources inside the agency. In a move largely seen as a precursor to this change in leadership, the Commission recently voted to install Buerkle as the Vice Chairman of the agency — ensuring that she would become the Acting Chairman of the agency once Kaye vacated the Chairman’s office.

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Cosmetics Reform Activity Begins in the 115th Congress

Posted in Consumer Product Safety, Drugs & Cosmetics, Federal Regulations, Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Manufacturer Product Safety, Private Labeler Product Safety, U.S. Congress, Uncategorized

As we have discussed in previous posts, Congress may be moving towards finally enacting some long-awaited cosmetics reform legislation this year. On January 13, Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) reintroduced his cosmetics modernization bill as H.R.575. The package of reforms was first introduced in November 2015 as the Cosmetic Modernization Amendments of 2015 (H.R.4075).

Overall, the proposed legislation would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to FDA’s regulation of cosmetics by creating new requirements such as the registration of manufacturing establishments and the submission of a cosmetic and ingredient statement for each marketed cosmetic. It also would require cosmetic manufacturers, packers, and distributors to report to FDA any serious and unexpected adverse events caused by a cosmetic product. Likewise, cosmetic labels would be required to include contact information for consumers to report such events to the manufacturer or distributor.

Below, we break down in detail pertinent sections of the Sessions bill, as it was introduced in the previous Congress (although reports indicate that the reintroduced version has not been altered significantly). Continue Reading

False Labeling Lawsuits Get Hung Up On Faulty Damages Models

Posted in Advertising, Federal Regulations, Food and Beverage, Litigation, Product Class Actions

Some of our colleagues from Mintz Levin’s Class Action Practice, Joshua Briones, Crystal Lopez, and Grace Rosales, recently authored an interesting and timely article in the Bloomberg BNA Product Safety & Liability Reporter. The article examines certain defenses in consumer fraud class actions over product labeling – specifically, defenses based on faulty damages models. Beyond proving the factual truth of the allegedly misleading labeling claims, the authors tell us, food and other consumer product companies can combat meritless suits by showing that the plaintiff’s damages-calculation model does not meet the requirements established under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

When reviewing a purported class action lawsuit, Federal Rule 23(b) requires the court to determine that “questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members.” Generally, a consumer’s damages in a false advertising case are equal to the amount of money needed to make the consumer “whole” — that is, to compensate the consumer for the harm caused by the false claim. But measuring the actual value received by a consumer and the but-for value that consumer would have received absent the false labeling by the product’s manufacturer requires a fact-intensive economic inquiry (for example, questions related to individual consumers’ behavior and preferences, the actual amount consumers paid for the product, time frame of the purchase, etc.). As a result, according to our expert litigators, defendants in product labeling lawsuits can oppose class certification or even file an early motion to decertify by showing that the plaintiffs’ damage model cannot be calculated with proof that is “common” to the class.

Joshua, Crystal, and Grace’s full article can be viewed here. Any manufacturer or retailer of consumer products that is facing a false labeling suit should give it a quick read!

FDA Finalizes Tobacco Product Intended Use Rules, Under a Risk of Rescission by Congress

Posted in Federal Regulations, Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Tobacco Products, U.S. Congress

As we’ve previously written about, 2016 represented a regulatory sea change for manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), who became subject to FDA oversight and requirements under the May 2016 Deeming Rule for tobacco products. In Monday’s Federal Register, FDA issued a final rule to exclude products derived from tobacco from Federal regulation as “tobacco products,” if or when such products are intended for use as a drug, device, or combination product (the “Final Rule”). In other words, the Agency has formally clarified that even a product made or derived from tobacco may be regulated as a medical product if it is intended for use in a way that meets the legal definition of “drug” or “device.”

However, FDA’s attempt to apply further requirements and restrictions on tobacco-derived products comes amid intense government wrangling over how to regulate products like ENDS more generally. It also comes at the eleventh hour of the Obama Administration and in the face of a Republican-controlled Congress that has expressed an interest in repealing, or at least reviewing, a large proportion of Federal agency rulemakings completed in the past several months. So it is worth noting that although this Final Rule could have a profound effect on marketing schemes for tobacco products, drugs, and medical devices alike, Congress’s recent passage of the Midnight Rules Relief Act could eliminate the rule before it ever takes effect (set for February 8, 2017). Continue Reading

“Extra Sweet Pink Flesh Pineapple” – Oh My!

Posted in Uncategorized

pineappleFirst off, I will admit that I am somewhat of a sucker for fresh pineapple (in fact, it was my “gorging” food of choice during my pregnancies, when I could literally eat a whole pineapple in one sitting – which is embarrassing but, in my opinion, better than cravings for weird combinations like ice cream and pickles!).  So the recent news that FDA cleared a new genetically engineered variety of pineapple for sale in the U.S. certainly caught my eye.

The Agency announced on December 14th that it had evaluated a variety of pineapple genetically engineered by Del Monte Fresh Produce (DMFP) to have pink fruit.  According to this announcement, “DMFP’s new pineapple has been genetically engineered to produce lower levels of the enzymes already in conventional pineapple that convert the pink pigment lycopene to the yellow pigment beta carotene.”  So the nutritional profile of the pineapple and other plant characteristics, when compared to the non-engineered version, were not affected by the underlying genetic change.   Continue Reading

FDA Increases Transparency of Adverse Event Data for Cosmetics and Foods

Posted in Consumer Product Safety, Drugs & Cosmetics, Federal Regulations, Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Food and Beverage, Product Liability

On December 6th, FDA announced that it is publicly releasing data received by the Agency’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) about adverse events related to cosmetics and foods, including both conventional foods and dietary supplements.  Adverse events can be any negative reaction to a product, such as a serious illness or allergic reactions, or other complaints like packaging problems, that are received through FDA’s voluntary adverse event reporting systems for these classes of regulated products (except for in the case of dietary supplement manufacturers, who have mandatory reporting obligations).

The CFSAN Adverse Event Reporting System, called “CAERS,” includes data from reports submitted by consumers, medical professionals, and industry. The initial data file made public by the Agency contains CAERS data from January 2004 through September 2016. Continue Reading

BREAKING: COURT RULES POSITIVELY FOR CPSC IN FEDERAL CIVIL PENALTY CASE AGAINST SPECTRUM BRANDS

Posted in Consumer Product Safety, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), CPSC Civil Penalties, CPSC Enforcement Actions, CPSC Product Recalls, Federal Regulations, Litigation

We do not get many court decisions in the CPSC world, but yesterday we received one.  Last evening, a Wisconsin federal district court essentially held in the Government’s case against Spectrum Brands, Inc. (Spectrum) that (1) Spectrum failed to timely report defective coffee pots in violation of Section 15(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) because they could create a substantial product hazard, and (2) the Government’s imposition of a civil penalty pursuant to the CPSA was not in violation of Spectrum’s statutory or constitutional due process rights.  In doing so, the Court rejected Spectrum’s procedural and substantive arguments, including that the CPSC’s claims were time barred and that the CPSA’s reporting requirements are unconstitutionally vague.

The Department of Justice and CPSC alleged that a company acquired by Spectrum (Applica Consumer Products) knowingly failed to timely report under Section 15(b) of the CPSA a hazardous defect relating to certain coffee pot handles.  The Complaint alleged that the Company had received approximately 1,600 consumer complaints over a four year period (2008-2012) related to the breakage of the pots’ handle resulting in coffee spillage and burns on consumers.

In response to the filing of the lawsuit, Spectrum asserted, among other arguments, that (1) the Commission’s claims against it were time barred under the so-called Gabelli doctrine; (2) the CPSA’s reporting requirements are unconstitutionally vague; (3) the CPSC failed to provide fair notice that a report was required in light of its finding that other Spectrum coffeemakers with similar issues did not present a substantial product hazard; (4) the CPSC’s late-reporting determination was arbitrary and capricious; (5) Spectrum had no duty to report because the CPSC had already been “adequately informed” of the handle failures and (6) the CPSA did not authorize the CPSC to seek certain forms of injunctive relief including the establishment of a compliance program and prospective liquidated damages in the event of noncompliance.

coffee-pot-cpscThe Court rejected all of these arguments and handed almost a total victory to the CPSC that may have future ramifications in the product safety community.  For example, the decision certainly lends new credence to the CPSC’s common refrain to regulated entities “when in doubt, report” when deciding whether a product defect could present a substantial product hazard.  The Court even went so far as to cite this common CPSC advice in the opinion.  It’s also noteworthy that the Court concluded that the CPSC does not need to articulate its reasoning for a civil penalty amount in writing and provide more transparency in the process generally­­­—a complaint often raised by industry defendants.

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With the passage of Proposition 67, the question is “Would you like paper or…paper?”

Posted in Consumer Product Safety, Food and Beverage, State Regulations

On November 8, 2016, California voters approved Proposition 67, the statewide ban on carry-out plastic bags, by 52 percent. At the same time, California voters rejected Proposition 65 by 55 percent–a measure that would have sent the proceeds from sales of paper bags and reusable bags to environmental causes.

Plastic Bage Seagull

Main Provisions of Proposition 67

  • Prohibits most grocery stores, convenience stores, large pharmacies, and liquor stores from providing single-use plastic carry-out bags. The provision excludes plastic bags used for certain purposes, such as those used for unwrapped produce.
  • Creates new standards for the material content and durability of reusable plastic carryout bags. The California Department of Resources Recovery and Recycling (CalRecycle) would be responsible for ensuring that bag manufacturers meet these requirements. The measure also defines standards for other types of carryout bags.
  • Requires a store to charge at least 10 cents for any carryout bag that it provides to consumers at checkout. Certain low-income would not have to pay the charge.

Main Provisions of Proposition 65

  • Redirects carryout bag revenue to a new state environmental fund called the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Fund.
  • Allows funds to be used for grants to support programs and projects related to  (1) drought mitigation; (2) recycling; (3) clean drinking water supplies; (4) state, regional, and local parks; (5) beach cleanup; (6) litter removal; and (7) wildlife habitat restoration.
  • Takes effect only if both propositions pass and Proposition 65 gets more “yes” votes than Proposition 67.

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FTC Issues Long-Awaited Enforcement Policy on OTC Homeopathic Drugs

Posted in Advertising, Children's Products, Consumer Product Safety, Drugs & Cosmetics, Federal Regulations, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Manufacturer Product Safety, Product Liability

We reported a few weeks ago about a new warning from FDA related to the safety of certain teething-related, non-prescription homeopathic drug products, and in that post we mentioned that both FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held public workshops in 2015 to gather information about this uniquely-regulated class of consumer products.  Today, FTC released an Enforcement Policy Statement on Marketing Claims for OTC Homeopathic Drugs  (available here); a Staff Report on the discussions held during the September 2015 workshop (available here); and an FTC blog post summarizing these actions.

For readers who are not familiar with homeopathy, the practice dates back to the 1700s and posits that disease symptoms can be treated by tiny doses of substances that produce similar symptoms if given in larger doses to healthy people (“like cures like”).  Accordingly, modern-day homeopathic remedies that we find ubiquitously in drug stores today are highly diluted formulations, which some people consider to be no more effective than placebo.  The FTC Staff Report provides an excellent overview of how this OTC industry has grown over the past 50 years and the viewpoints presented by both supporters and skeptics of homeopathy.

 The upshot to the new FTC Enforcement Policy is this:
 “No convincing reasons have been advanced either in the comments or the workshop as to why efficacy and safety claims for OTC homeopathic drugs should not be held to the same truth-in-advertising standards as other products claiming health benefits.”

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