Consumers have filed lawsuits alleging that companies misrepresent their products as “natural” because they contain d-malic acid. One lawsuit targets Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., alleging it mislabels its juices as free from artificial flavors despite containing d-malic acid rather than the naturally occurring l-malic acid. Froio v. Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., No. 18-12005 (D. Mass., filed September 24, 2018). The complaint further alleges that the juices contain furmaric acid, which is “manufactured from petrochemical feedstock, either benzene or butane, through chemical transformation to maleic anhydride.” The plaintiffs argue that a “reasonable consumer understands Defendant’s claims that the Products contain no ‘artificial’ flavoring to mean that the flavoring is derived from a natural source.” For allegations of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment and violations of New York and Massachusetts consumer-protection statutes, the plaintiffs seek class certification, damages, injunctive relief, restitution and attorney’s fees.

Two consumers have alleged that Neurobrands LLC also flavors its “natural” beverages with d-malic acid. Young v. Neurobrands LLC, No. 5907 (N.D. Cal., filed September 26, 2018). The complaint asserts that Neurobrands’ ingredient lists “violate federal and state law because they identify, misleadingly, the malic acid flavoring only as the general ‘malic acid’ instead of using the specific, non-generic name of the ingredient.” The plaintiffs contend that the malic acid “simulates, resembles, and reinforces the characterizing fruit flavors for the Products” such that under federal law, “Defendant was required to place prominently on the Products’ front labels a notice sufficient to allow California consumers to understand that the products contained artificial flavorings.” For allegations of fraud by omission, negligent misrepresentation and violations of California’s consumer-protection statutes, the plaintiffs seek class certification, restitution, damages, injunctions barring unfair practices and compelling corrective advertising, costs and attorney’s fees.

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.