US retailer Trader Joe's has proposed a $3.4m settlement to bring to a close a lawsuit that claims it mislabelled products as "all natural".

According to a statement issued by court-appointed settlement administrator Rust Consulting, Trader Joe's is entering the settlement "solely to avoid the further expense, inconvenience, and distraction of any burdensome and protracted litigation and to be completely free of any further controversy with respect to this lawsuit".

The retailer "denies it did anything wrong or unlawful, and asserts the Products' labels were truthful, not misleading, and consistent with the law," the statement adds.

The United States District Court for the Northern District of California is yet to approve the settlement.

Trader Joe's allegedly mislabelled foods that contained synthetic ingredients, including ascorbic acid, cocoa processed with alkali, sodium acid , sodium citrate, gum, and vegetable mono- and as "all natural" or "100% natural".

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The following is being released by the Court-appointed Settlement Administrator, Rust Consulting, regarding Larsen v. Trader Joe's Company.

A settlement has been proposed in a class action lawsuit alleging that Trader Joe's mislabeled certain products "All Natural" or "100% Natural." Trader Joe's denies it did anything wrong or unlawful, and asserts the Products' labels were truthful, not misleading, and consistent with the law. Trader Joe's enters into this settlement solely to avoid the further expense, inconvenience, and distraction of any burdensome and protracted litigation and to be completely free of any further controversy with respect to this lawsuit.

The United States District Court for the Northern District of California authorized this notice. Before any money is paid, the Court will have a hearing to decide whether to approve the settlement.

All consumers in the United States who purchased, on or after October 24, 2007 through February 6, 2014, certain Trader Joe's food products that were labeled "All Natural" or "100% Natural" but contained certain, allegedly synthetic ingredients, including ascorbic acid, cocoa processed with alkali, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium citrate, xanthan gum, and vegetable mono- and diglycerides. The Trader Joe's food products are: Joe-Joe's Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies; Joe-Joe's Chocolate Sandwich Creme Cookies; Trader Joe's Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls; Trader Joe's Buttermilk Biscuits; Trader Giotto's 100% Natural Fat Free Ricotta Cheese; and Trader Joe's Fresh Pressed Apple Juice ("Products").  Specifically excluded from the Settlement Class are: (i) Trader Joe's and its employees, principals, officers, directors, agents, affiliated entities, legal representatives, successors and assigns; (ii) the judges to whom this action has been or is assigned and any members of their immediate families; and (iii) all consumers who have filed a timely Request for Exclusion from the Settlement Class.

The lawsuit claims that Trader Joe's mislabeled the Products by claiming they were "All Natural" or "100% Natural" despite the fact they contained certain, allegedly synthetic ingredients. Trader Joe's denies it did anything wrong. The Court has not decided who is right. Both sides have agreed to settle the dispute and give benefits to Settlement Class Members.

The settlement provides a restitution fund of $3,375,000.  Settlement Class Members who timely submit valid Claim Forms byJune 16, 2014 may be entitled to receive a cash payment from the fund for up to ten (10) total Products in the following amounts without providing Proof of Purchase: Joe-Joe's Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies ($2.70); Joe-Joe's Chocolate Sandwich Creme Cookies ($2.70); Trader Joe's Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls ($3.99); Trader Joe's Buttermilk Biscuits ($2.93); Trader Giotto's 100% Natural Fat Free Ricotta Cheese ($3.62); Trader Joe's Fresh Pressed Apple Juice ($2.79). Settlement Class Members who claim more than ten (10) Products must submit a Proof of Purchase establishing the purchase(s) during the Settlement Class Period for each Product claimed in excess of ten (10).

Under the terms of the settlement, the restitution fund will first be used to pay any and all court-ordered Attorneys' Fees and Expenses, incentive awards, and Settlement Administration Expenses incurred. What remains of the fund will be used to pay valid and eligible cash Claims. If the total amount of valid and eligible Claims exceeds the amount remaining in the $3,375,000fund, then each Authorized Claimant's Award shall be proportionately reduced based on the available funds. An "Authorized Claimant" is a Settlement Class Member who timely submits a valid Claim Form in accordance with the terms of this settlement.

Original source: Rust Consulting