Class Action Alleges Juice Beverages Falsely Advertised as Natural

Labels on juice-based beverages, including Guava Nectar, Apricot Nectar, and Peach Nectar, are allegedly misleading and false, according to a class action suit filed in the Southern District of California.  The plaintiffs alleged that the labels say the juice is flavored with only natural ingredients, including a “100% Natural” label, but they “contain undisclosed artificial flavors.”

The defendant, Vilore Foods Company Inc., is identified on the labels as the U.S. distributor of Kerns juice brand. The products are packaged in Mexico and shipped into the United States. The plaintiffs, Warren Gross and Deborah Levin, are represented by the Law Office of Ronald Marron. The complaint claimed the misbranding violates federal law, California law, and the laws of other states.

Goss and Levin claim that the pictures of fresh mangoes and apricots on the juice cans, as well as the “100% Natural” claim make the representation to a consumer that there are only natural juices. The juices, however, contain malic acid, a chemical added to make manufactured products taste like fruit. They argue the can should give the specific name of the malic acid used. The juices also contain undisclosed flavoring from petrochemicals, one of which called the d-1 malic acid has not been studied for its health impact.

“Because each Product contains additional flavoring ingredients that simulate and reinforce the characterizing flavor, the front label is required by law to disclose those additional flavors rather than misleadingly suggest that the Product is flavored only by the labeled natural juices,” the complaint states.

The plaintiffs were unaware of the artificial flavoring when purchasing the product, and they were looking for a product flavored with only natural ingredients; they claim they lost money as a result of the purchase. The complaint alleged that the misrepresentation gave the company a commercial advantage because consumers will pay more for an item with natural flavoring.

“Plaintiffs reasonably assumed the Products to be free of artificial flavoring, based on the Product labels, when they were not, they did not receive the benefit of their purchases,” the complaint stated. “Instead of receiving the benefit of products free of artificial flavoring, they  received a Product that was unlawfully labeled so as to deceive the consumer into believing that it is exclusively naturally flavored and contains no artificial flavoring, in violation of federal and state labeling regulations.”

The plaintiffs claimed that although they exercised reasonable diligence, they did not learn of the artificial flavors until well after they had made their purchase. They asked for an order to stop the defendant from distributing and advertising the products, to re-label existing products, a corrective advertising campaign to inform consumers, restitution for members of the class, actual damages, and punitive damages. 

Another case, also alleging fraudulent use of a “100% Natural” label in advertising, recently survived a motion to dismiss after appealing to the First Circuit.