US court dismisses misleading labeling suit against Campbell’s V8 V-Fusion juice
Case No. 4:14cv291-RH/CAS relates to V8 V-Fusion Pomegranate Blueberry and Acai Mixed Berry products, with the plaintiff arguing that ‘100% juice’ implied that the drinks contained only these flavoring juices rather than a base mixture of fruit and vegetable juices.
Robert Hinkle, sitting in the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida Tallahassee Division, disagreed with plaintiff Patricia Bell’s claim – first filed on June 16 2014 – that the beverages’ labelling was misleading.
Bell et al. claimed that, since ‘100% juice’ appeared so close to the flavor name ‘Pomegranate Blueberry’ on the label, this suggested (misleadingly, they said) that the juice only comprised these flavors.
100% juice, but not pomegranate and blueberry
They also complain that a more detailed statement describing the drink as a ‘pomegranate and blueberry flavored beverage blend of 8 vegetable and fruit juices from concentrate with other natural flavors and added ingredients’ was misleading because it was too small in relation to text stating ‘100% juice’ and ‘Pomegranate Blueberry’.
Finally, Bell et al. said that a pictorial ‘vignette’ on the label featuring fruits and vegetables used in the juice misled because it prominently depicts only blueberries and pomegranates, which provide flavour but only a small proportion of the juice.
Taking the pomegranate blueberry blend as his example – Judge Hinkle says his analysis for acai mixed berry is identical – the judge noted that the drink contains less than 1% of pomegranate and blueberry juice – the blend of eight fruit and vegetable juices, predominantly sweet potatoes and purple carrots.
Campbell fully compliant with federal regulations
“Under 21 C.F.R [Code of Federal Regulations] § 102.33(d), when a product’s flavor comes from a juice that is not the primary ingredient, the name may include a flavoring juice, without including any other juices, so long as the label includes the statement ‘that the named juice is present as a flavoring’,” Judge Robert Hinkle wrote.
“Under 21 C.F.R § 101.22(i)(1)(i), in circumstances like these, the flavor – in this instance pomegranate and blueberry – must be ‘followed by the word ‘flavored’ in letters not less than one half the height of the letters in the name of the characterizing flavor’,” he added, again citing the C.F.R.
“So long as these requirements are met, the label may include a vignette depicting a fruit that provides the product’s flavor Id. § 101.22(i). Campbell complied with these requirements to the letter,” Hinkle wrote.
Dismissing Bell et al.’s complaint without leave to amend the suit, Hinkle said she asserted claims under Florida law, but that the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act pre-empted state law on the relevant points, and that Campbell’s labels complied with relevant federal legislation.
“Many consumers probably would believe that ‘V8’ juice is a blend, that ‘V’ stands for ‘vegetable’, that pomegranates and blueberries are fruits, and that this product is a blend of fruit and vegetable juices that tastes like pomegranates and blueberries,” Hinkle wrote.
“Many consumers probably would notice other statements on the primary display panel that make clear the product is not 100% pomegranate and blueberry juice,” he added, addressing the issue of what a reasonable consumer might believe on examining the label.