Putative Class Claims Curtailed in Coconut Water Consumer Fraud Action
A federal court in California has granted in part the summary judgment
motion filed by a coconut water company facing allegations that it overstates
the magnesium and sodium content of its “O.N.E.” product and falsely claims
that it is a good source of electrolytes. Vital v. One World Co., LLC, No.
12-00314 (C.D. Cal., order entered November 30, 2012).
The court dismissed all claims based on a study that allegedly found lower levels of magnesium and sodium than allowed by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations when a product is claimed to be a “good source” of such nutrients. According to the court, the plaintiffs failed to show that the study was conducted under FDA’s § 101.9(g) methodology and would thus impose more stringent requirements on the defendant than federal law.
The court allowed the plaintiffs to pursue claims that the product is falsely
marketed as a “good source of electrolytes,” because the product labels
themselves show that the coconut water is a good source of just one electrolyte
under FDA regulations. The court could not conclude that the practice
was not deceptive as a matter of law because “[t]he phrase ‘good source’ of
‘electrolytes’ implies that O.N.E. is a ‘good source’ of more than one electrolyte.
Therefore, the fact that the label makes a number of additional claims about
potassium is not sufficient. A reasonable consumer might still believe that
O.N.E. is a good source of at least one other electrolyte.”