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Snapple maker sued over labelling claims

By Neil Merrett , 10-Jul-2007

Cadbury Schweppes could face paying out six years worth of refunds if a native New Yorker succeeds with a court suit against the beverage giant's labelling practices.

Hemant Mehta filed an action on Friday accusing Cadbury Schweppes of misleading customers with claims that certain products in its portfolio like the Snapple juice and tea drink brand were "all natural". He called for the group to pay damages for all customers that have been allegedly misled by its labelling, according to Reuters. Whether the case is successful or not, the claims have been made at a time when beverage groups are coming under the spotlight regarding claims being made on their packaging. In April last year, Cadbury Schweppes reformulated its 7UP product to contain what it termed only "100 per cent natural" ingredients: filtered carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, natural citric acid, natural flavours and natural potassium citrate. The latest case with Snapple highlights the growing scrutiny over claims being made by manufacturers relating to their food and beverage products, with the possibility for some groups of having to re-label or reformulate some brands accordingly. In papers submitted to the court, Mehta alleges that the company, contrary to claims on its some of it labels, had been using "other non-natural products" as well as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This he claims means that the "all natural" tag is being used unfairly on some of its products. "HFCS does not exist in nature and is not 'minimally processed,'" the complaint said as quoted by the Reuters news agency. "Describing HFCS as an 'all natural' ingredient is deceptive and unfair to consumers and competitors." High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) remains a controversial ingredient, and has been accused of not qualifying as 'all-natural' because its chemical bonds are broken and rearranged in the manufacturing process. Mehta hopes the case against Cadbury Schweppes will become a class action complaint. He has therefore called on anyone who has consumed drank Cadbury Schweppes and Snapple drinks over the last six years to come forward to be presented in the case, according to Reuters. Mehta has called for damages worth $100m to be awarded on their behalf. Cadbury Schweppes were unavailable for comment over the suit. Earlier this year, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to distribute notices to stores in New Zealand revealing it had made potentially misleading claims regarding its juice Ribena juice bran's vitamin C content. The decision was made after testing by a group of schoolgirls in the country revealed that some samples were not meeting the stated requirements on its packaging. The company was also forced to refrain from the use of promotional material from it packaging regarding nutritional content that could not be substantiated.

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