Refusing to certify the class, a California federal court has granted a partial motion to dismiss in a putative class action alleging that Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. mislabels its “100% Juice” products as “No Sugar Added” despite adding fruit juice from concentrate. Major v. Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., No. 12-3067 (N.D. Cal., order entered February 26, 2015). The plaintiff argued that adding the concentrate and labeling the products “No Sugar Added” violates California law, which prohibits use of that phrase on food “containing added sugars such as jam, jelly, or concentrated fruit juice.” Instead, she asserted, Ocean Spray must include the disclaimer that their products are not low-calorie foods.

Ocean Spray argued that the plaintiff did not rely on the “No Sugar Added” label when purchasing the products, and the court agreed, pointing to a deposition in which the plaintiff admitted that calorie content was not a motivating factor in her purchasing decision. The court also agreed with Ocean Spray’s argument that the “No Sugar Added” label was factually accurate, noting that “when asked by Defendant what the ‘No Sugar Added’ message meant to her, [the plaintiff] stated, ‘[t]hat there’s literally nothing containing sugar that’s added to this other than the natural sugar from the fruit.’ Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s understanding is entirely accurate and directly contradicts her own legal theory.

The court found that because the plaintiff’s argument failed to account for the difference between “concentrated fruit juice,” as in the California law, and “fruit juice from concentrate,” which Ocean Spray uses in its products, her theory relied on an overbroad application of the statute. As the juice products “contain the same amount of sugar that would have existed naturally, the products cannot be said to contain ‘added sugars.’” Granting the motion to dismiss, the court deemed moot the plaintiff’s motion for class certification.

Issue 557

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.

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