On Tuesday, July 25th, a federal judge in California ruled that the consumer protection lawsuit alleging Whole Foods Market falsely advertised its beef as “no antibiotics, ever” can proceed. In his first ruling on the case, U.S. District Judge John W. Holcomb concluded that one of the consumer plaintiffs can move forward with their claims of fraud, breach of warranty, and unjust enrichment. The lawsuit is based in part on Farm Forward’s investigation that found an antibiotic in beef labeled as “antibiotic free,” Organic and Animal Welfare Certified. The judge also denied Whole Foods’ motion to stay discovery, which was their attempt to stonewall. The ruling opens the door to Whole Foods turning over key information about their suppliers.
As the largest natural food retailer in America, the case against Whole Foods could have wide ranging impacts for farmed animals. We believe that retailers like Whole Foods which advertise their meat as “no antibiotics, ever” should be required to test and verify those claims to ensure they are accurate, something that the majority of consumers believe is already happening. Ensuring transparency and accountability in Whole Foods’ suppliers will push meat companies to make husbandry and operational changes that could significantly improve conditions for animals.
The ruling is validation of our recent work to expose humanewashing by retailers like Whole Foods. Farm Forward has long contended that humanewashing represents an existential threat to the growing movement to end factory farming and that increased scrutiny and transparency is a critical step to protect consumers and improve the lives of farmed animals.
The consumer class action could have wide ranging legal implications, creating legal liability for retailers that fail to meaningfully verify their claims and mislead the public. Ultimately, creating liability for companies that engage in humanewashing is essential to drive change in the industry. We will continue to update our followers on the case as it proceeds.