$9 million is the kind of money one expects out of, say, a wrongful death or sexual harassment suit. But a group of California plaintiffs has somehow managed to convince Naked Juice that it’s inflicted millions of dollars’ worth of damages simply by labeling its juices “all natural,” when they’re actually…mostly natural? Whatever, it’s California. We won’t question it.
Naked Juice, whose reaction to the settlement is basically “our bad, but not really,” was sued for including soluble fibers, an alternative sweetener called fructooligosaccarides, and—horror of horrors—genetically modified soy in its supposedly pristine products. The plaintiffs, who filed no less than five class action suits that were eventually consolidated, alleged that Naked Juice had engaged in false advertising and unfair competition against its competitors, whose all-natural products were presumably less delicious for their lack of fructooligosaccarides.
The juice company, owned by PepsiCo, is one of a slew of companies targeted by lawsuits for falsely using the “all-natural” label to describe their products. The problem is that “all-natural” is pretty terribly defined in the first place, leaving corporations like Campbell’s, Ben & Jerry’s, and Arizona Iced Tea in danger of being prosecuted if they slap it on the wrong item. The FDA literally doesn’t have a definition, leaving it to questionably qualified courts (one judge just threw out the Arizona suit, claiming that just because something’s processed doesn’t mean it’s not natural) to sort out the GMOs from the high fructose corn syrup.
To stay on the safe side, Naked Juice will no longer use the descriptor for any of its drinks, but if this isn’t a sign that the FDA should probably get its shit together and come up with some semi-coherent standards for a term that’s fast becoming almost as meaningless as “home-made,” we don’t know what is.
[via LA Weekly]