PepsiCo brand Naked Juice will stop using ‘all natural’ to describe its products due to lack of detailed regulatory guidance around the word ‘natural’, after agreeing to settle a class action for $9m.
Naked Emerging Brands told BeverageDaily.com today it was taking the step in relation to its juices and smoothies, after settling the consolidated class action – the brand still vigorously denies all its allegations – on July 2 2013.
It has also pledged to employ lab expert Eurofins to substantiate the ‘Non-GMO’ statement on labels against a standard at least as strict as 2003 EU standards allowing 0.9% GMO content per ingredient.
The news will reignite the debate over whether the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to better define what counts as ‘natural' (see this informative recent piece from my US colleague Elaine Watson ), although the agency has repeatedly declined to do so in the past.*
Lengthy legal battle ends
Natalie Pappas v. Naked Juice Co. of Glendora saw Naked Juice Co. of Glendoring sued in the US District Court, Central District of California on behalf of all relevant US consumers regarding the advertising, labelling and marketing of Naked Juice products.
The allegations relate to the claims ‘100% Juice’, ‘All Natural’, ‘All Natural Fruit’, ‘All Natural Fruit + Boosts’ and/or ‘Non-GMO’ via any medium, be it on packaging or online.
The plaintiffs alleged that various Naked Juice products were not ‘all natural’ since they included Fibersol-2 from Archer Daniel Midlands (ADM), fructooligosaccharides and inulin, and also knowingly used GM soy.
The consolidated suit was filed in June 2012 but encompasses actions launched as early as October 2011; it alleged that the claims violate Californian false advertising and unfair competition laws.
Naked Juice denies any wrongdoing, but the settlement stipulation (presided over by US District Court judge John Kronstadt) said that both the brand and plaintiffs had weighed the risks and potential costs of continued litigation against the benefits of settlement, and opted for the latter.
FDA’s ‘food science’ headache…
A Naked Emerging Brands spokesperson said today the brand was “pleased to have reached this agreement”, adding that it looked forward to “focusing on what we love doing best: making great-tasting, great-for-you Naked juices and smoothies from the finest and purest fruits and vegetables”.
“We’re confident consumers understand this. However, until there is more detailed regulatory guidance around the word ‘natural’, we’ve chosen not to use 'all natural' to describe our juices and smoothies,” the spokesperson told BeverageDaily.com.
According to the July 2 settlement document: “Naked Juice has vigorously denied and continues to dispute all of the claims and contentions alleged in the…actions, and it denies any and all allegations of wrongdoing, fault, liability or damage of any kind to the plaintiffs and the putative class.”
*The FDA website states that: “From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is natural because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth.
“The agency has not objected to use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances,” it adds.