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Consumer Group Wins First Round in Lawsuit Against Ben & Jerry's

A federal judge has ruled against Ben & Jerry’s and allowed a lawsuit alleging that the company doesn’t live up to its environmentally friendly messaging to move forward.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) filed suit in Washington in July arguing that the Vermont-based ice cream maker misled consumers to think its product is more environmental friendly than it really is, in violation of consumer protection laws. On Monday, Judge Neal Kravitz foiled Ben & Jerry’s efforts to get the case dismissed.

The OCA argued that while Ben & Jerry’s frames itself as an environmental leader, in reality, the company’s products include ingredients sourced from inhumane dairy farms and include traces of glyphosate, a herbicide.

Ben & Jerry’s, which is owned by Unilever, had argued that no reasonable customer would conclude that the company’s advertising about “happy cows” meant that none of the cows lived on ordinary farms.

Kravitz found that the allegations raised by the association were “sufficient to advance a plausible claim that consumers would be misled by Ben & Jerry’s labeling and marketing regarding the sourcing of its ingredients.”

“A reasonable consumer could plausibly interpret Ben & Jerry’s labeling and marketing as affirmatively (and inaccurately) communicating that the company’s ice cream products are sourced exclusively from Caring Dairies and/or other humane source,” he wrote.