Monday, April 22, 2013

Websites As Food Labels

Under the United States Food, Drug, and Cosmetic ("FD & C") Act, companies that sell food commercially must label that food to include accurate information important to consumers, such as nutritional content.  With the increasing migration of information from the physical world onto the internet, issues have arisen about whether or not websites constitute food labels.  Section 321(m) of the FD & C Act defines "labeling" as
all labels and other written, printed, or graphic matter (1) upon any article or any of its containers or wrappers, or (2) accompanying such article.
Even though the Named Products' labels ask consumers to visit the website, they do not state that the website will inform consumers of the details of the Named Products' nutritional facts, and none of the language Plaintiffs cite is drawn closely enough to the Named Products themselves to merit the website's being found to constitute "labeling."
This aspect of food law will certainly continue to evolve.  In the meantime, this decision may encourage food companies to push the boundaries of how they describe (and market) their goods on the web.  Caveat emptor essorque!