Orange juice maker Tropicana has found itself facing lawsuits claiming that the company’s ‘all natural’ claims are false and misleading. Lawsuits filed across the nation claim that the company’s juice has been so heavily processed that it should not be called ‘natural.’ The first of the approximately 20 lawsuits was filed in New Jersey.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs have claimed that the company routinely adds chemically engineered “flavor packs” to its juice in order to make it taste the same year-round. Tropicana markets its brand as fresh from the grove. Tropicana said in a statement that the company is committed to full compliance with labeling laws and to the production of “great-tasting 100 percent orange juice.”
The orange juice lawsuits are just the latest disputes over deceptive labeling claims that have been filed over the past several years. Several major national brands, including Tostidos, SunChips, Snapple, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, have been attacked for similar claims. Food and beverage industry lawyers have told their clients to be wary of the claims they are making.
Part of the problem is that companies are creating and branding their products as ‘all natural’ to attract consumers are looking for healthier products. The Food and Drug Administration has no definition of what should be considered ‘natural.’ The agency does not object to a food being labeled as ‘natural’ as long as it does not contain added color, artificial flavor, or synthetic substances. The Food and Drug Administration oversees packaged food labeling in the United States.
The orange juice lawsuit has sought class action status, where one or more consumers sue on behalf of all people who bought the product. The lawyers for the lawsuit recently met to argue before a panel of judges in Washington about where the Tropicana lawsuits should be heard as a group. Tropicana declined to comment on the pending lawsuits or the claims against the company.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association had a panel that discussed deceptive labeling lawsuits in February as part of a conference, in part because the lawsuits have become so common. The Grocery Manufacturers Association currently represents more than 300 food and beverage makers.