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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has filed a lawsuit seeking to enjoin Valley Processing Inc. from introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. USA v. Valley Processing Inc., No. 20-3191 (E.D. Wa., filed November 6, 2020). FDA alleges Valley Processing's juice products "have been found to contain inorganic arsenic and patulin, both toxins which pose a health risk to consumers." The products were supplied to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's school lunch program, "providing approximately 2,964,000 apple juice servings to schoolchildren every year." FDA allegedly found "grossly insanitary conditions" during inspections in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, including barrels containing "grape juice concentrate that was several years old" and "contaminated by filth and mold, thus not suitable for human consumption." Investigators "also discovered that Defendants processed the 'bottoms' of stored grape juice concentrate. The 'bottom' of juice concentrate is the leftover sludge that accumulates at the bottom of the…

Two consumers have filed a putative class action alleging that Tropicana misleads consumers by implying that its products are natural despite containing malic acid. Willard v. Tropicana Mfg. Co., No. 20-1501 (N.D. Ill., filed February 28, 2020). The complaint argues that Tropicana "tricks consumers" into buying products by "omitting the legally required disclosures" about artificial flavoring because the juice products list malic acid—which the plaintiff asserts is the synthetic flavoring form, dl-malic acid—as an ingredient. Tropicana "intended to give reasonable consumers like the Plaintiff the impression that the Products are pure, natural, and not artificially flavored, by packaging, labeling, and advertising the Products" with depictions of fresh fruit and names such as "Farmstand Apple," the plaintiffs assert. For alleged violations of Illinois and California consumer-protection statutes, they seek class certification, injunctions, damages and attorney's fees.

A California appeals court has determined that the "no sugar added" phrasing on Califia Farms' Cuties tangerine juice does not imply to consumers that competitors add sugar to their products. Shaeffer v. Califia Farms LLC, No. B291085 (Cal. App. Ct., entered February 6, 2020). The lower court dismissed the complaint, ruling that the "no sugar added" representation was truthful. The appeals court considered "statements a business affirmatively and truthfully makes about its product and which do not on their face mention or otherwise reference its competing products at all." The court found that a "statement may be 'fraudulent' (and hence actionable) if it is 'deceptive and misleading in its implications,'" but declined to hold as actionable truthful statements about a company's own product when the argument is that a reasonable consumer would "(1) likely to infer from such a statement that the very same statement is untrue as to comparable,…

The University of Connecticut's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity has released a report on the state of nutrition and marketing for beverages targeted to children. The researchers identified "common practices that may confuse parents about the ingredients and healthfulness of sweetened children's drinks," including the "widespread use of low-calorie sweeteners," the "sugar content and calories" and the serving sizes of "100% juice products" that "contained more than the recommended maximum daily amount of juice for toddlers." The report recommends that "manufacturers should develop and market unsweetened plain waters for children," that media companies with children's programming "should implement nutrition standards that comply with expert recommendations that can be advertised to children in their media" and that retailers should "clearly label children's drinks that contain added sweeteners."

A California federal court has refused to dismiss a putative class action alleging Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. misled consumers by marketing its products as free from artificial flavors despite containing malic acid. Hilsley v. Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., No. 17-2335 (S.D. Cal., entered October 30, 2018). Ocean Spray moved to dismiss the allegations, arguing that "malic and fumaric acids do not function as flavors in their juice products but instead are acidulants used to control the pH and titratable acid levels in their juices." Ocean Spray presented testimony from its vice president of research, development, quality and engineering, who asserted that changing the amount of malic and fumaric acids in the product would not change the flavor but may "create a perceptible difference in mouth feel of the product." The plaintiff's expert, a food scientist, argued that the "small quantity of synthetic malic acid in the Cran-Apple juice drink" would…

A consumer has alleged that Apple & Eve markets its Switch Sparkling Juices as containing no added sugar or preservatives despite containing citric and ascorbic acids and having a "high calorie count when compared to competitors' products that do not have the 'No Sugar Added' claim." Reaves v. Apple & Eve LLC, No. 18-5728 (E.D.N.Y., filed October 12, 2018). The complaint asserts that consumers believe the juices to be "a low-calorie product" because of the "no sugar added" marketing message. "Consumers associate claims about the absence of sugar with lower calorie counts when there is no disclaimer stating otherwise," the complaint alleges. "The [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] has reached the same conclusion: 'Consumers may reasonably be expected to regard terms that represent that the food contains no sugars or sweeteners e.g., 'sugar free,' or 'no sugar,' as indicating a product which is low in calories or significantly reduced in…

Jamba Inc. and Jamba Juice Co. face a putative class action alleging the company's advertising deceives and misleads consumers about the nutritional value and ingredients of its smoothie beverages. Turner v. Jamba, Inc., No. 18-5168 (N.D. Cal., filed August 23, 2018). The plaintiffs allege that Jamba's smoothies contain more sugars than typical sodas or soft drinks rather than being “simple and nutritionally on par with eating whole fruits and vegetables." In addition, the complaint asserts that the smoothies contain concentrated fruit juice blends—predominantly apple, pear and grape—rather than “whole fruits and veggies.” The plaintiffs also allege that the sherbets and frozen yogurts used in the smoothie blends contain "numerous additives," including sugar, corn syrup, caramel coloring, carrageenan, citric acid, guar gum, lactic acid, locust bean gum and pectin. Claiming violations of California’s and New York’s consumer-protection statutes, the plaintiffs seek class certification, declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, damages and attorney’s fees.

A New York federal court has dismissed some allegations in a lawsuit alleging Whole Foods Market Group Inc. and Freshbev LLC mislabeled juice products but will allow three claims to proceed. Campbell v. Freshbev LLC, No. 16-7119 (E.D.N.Y., entered July 2, 2018). The plaintiff alleged that the companies mislabeled the juices as unpasteurized, cold-pressed and fresh and that Ripe Craft Juice 12.2 Northeast Blend Cranberry Apple contained more apple juice than cranberry in the blend. The court dismissed the allegation that the "cold-pressed" labels were misleading because the juices are subjected to high-pressure processing, finding that a "reasonable consumer would not mistake the cold-pressed claim to be a claim that pressure was never applied to the juice products." The court permitted three state-law claims related to the "fresh" labels, the "unpasteurized" label on cranberry juice, and the "Cranberry Apple" juice ingredients to continue but dismissed claims for injunctive relief and fraud.

A federal court has denied a motion to reconsider a denial of class certification in a lawsuit alleging that Tropicana Products Inc. mislabeled its orange juice as “natural.” In re Tropicana Orange Juice Mktg. & Sales Practices Litig., No. 11-7382 (D.N.J., entered May 24, 2018). The plaintiffs argued that the court misconstrued its theory of liability, gave more weight to the defendant’s expert opinions, overlooked evidence of class-wide injury and erred in its ascertainability analysis. The court ruled that because the plaintiffs “exhaustively alleged” that the juice contained added flavoring, whether the product conforms to the standard of identity for pasteurized orange juice "lies at the heart of Plaintiff’s theory of liability as articulated by Plaintiffs’ own words.” Finding the claims unsupported by the pleadings, the court found no cause for reconsideration. The court also pointed to an expert opinion showing variation in the reasoning behind consumer decisions to buy the…

A New York federal court has dismissed most of the claims in a cold-pressed juice putative class action but will allow to proceed allegations related to heat-processing of citrus juices. Davis v. Hain Celestial Grp., Inc., No. 17-5191 (E.D.N.Y., entered April 3, 2018). The court dismissed the complaint’s allegations involving high-pressure processing, finding that “the label taken as a whole makes clear that the juice was subjected to pressure for food safety purposes.” Even if consumers “are not generally aware of non-thermal processing methods, the Cold-Pressed Line labels clearly indicate that such methods exist,” the court held. “'Cold pressed' does not cease to be a truthful moniker for the juice simply because there were subsequent steps in the juice’s production process.” The court declined to dismiss the plaintiff’s allegations that all citrus juices—including lemon juice, which appears in all of the contested products—must be heat-processed. If true, the court found, the…

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