Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, which uses its own gluten-free symbol on product labels (Bob's Red Mill's "GF" Mark), filed a lawsuit in June against the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America in US district court in Portland, which wants Bob's to stop using the gluten-free symbol.
And US action against Kellogg's RXBar and the That's It bar suggest the tide is turning against non-certified 'natural' or 'clean label' snack bars as consumers seek more transparency on food labeling.
Bob's wants a federal judge to find the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) of North America's gluten-free symbol unenforceable and tell GIG to stop trying to keep companies from using a similar one.
The legal action came in response to a letter from the Gluten Intolerance Group asking Bob's to refrain from using the company's own gluten-free symbol (Certified GF Gluten-Free) because it's similar to the group's and could cause consumers to believe it had certified Bob's gluten-free products.
The US FDA has a gluten-free standard set at 20 parts per million, compared with Bob's labeling of gluten-free products if they contain fewer than 19ppm. The Gluten Intolerance Group certifies ingredients containing fewer than 10ppm of gluten.
According to celiac and gluten-free support group Celiac.com, Bob’s Red Mill is looking to continue using their current gluten-free logo without seeking permission from or paying money to, the Gluten Intolerance Group.
The GIG verifies and certifies gluten-free products through its Gluten-Free Certification Organization program and has certified more than 30,000 products in 29 different countries.
"For its gluten-free labeling, Bob’s Red Mill currently uses a gluten-free circle symbol with “gluten-free” in larger letters in the middle. Above and below the gluten-free, in a smaller font are the words 'GLUTEN' and 'FREE' respectively. For their certification label, The Gluten Intolerance Group uses a similar 'gluten-free' in a circle, with the words 'Certified' and 'Gluten-Free' in smaller letters above and below the circle, respectively," Celiac.com said.
In court documents, Bob’s said that “complying with GIG’s demand would require a significant redesign and marketing process,” and that “potential damages exceed $75,000.” Bob’s Red Mill claims that GIG abandoned its application to register its gluten-free mark with the US Patent and Trademark Office on February 13, 2018.
A New York, Staten Island man Michael Pizzirusso started a class action suit in June against RXBar and said in court papers he was deceived to believe RXBars contained “real” egg whites, according to website SILive.com on June 23.
Manufacturer of the popular RXBar, the Chicago Bar Company, was acquired by Kellogg in November 2017 for US600 million.
“The defendant does not use egg white power in its complete form, which would have entitled it to utilize the name ‘egg whites’ to refer to the subject ingredient,” claims the defendant in court documents.
The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York said this kind of court case isn’t the intended use of a class action suit, the majority of a settlement goes to the lawyers, while consumers see little to no benefit.
In May, a lawsuit was filed against US fruit and vegetable bar maker That's It. According to Project Nosh, in a complaint filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, plaintiff Anthony Medina alleged: That’s It’s is committing fraud when it lists fruits like “blueberries” and “apples” on its ingredient label, rather than the collective ingredients of its bars; and the only way to manufacture a fruit bar without binders is by using ingredients already subject to levels of processing or transformation.