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 “not significantly lower the pH of the juice drink but instead would function as a flavor and flavor enhancer.”

“Based on the competing declarations, the Court concludes that there is a material issue of disputed fact whether malic acid and fumaric acid function as flavors in Defendants’ juice products,” the court held, denying Ocean Spray’s motion to dismiss.

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.