Consumers are increasingly interested in buying “natural” products, or products without artificial or synthetic ingredients. Many companies now prominently advertise that their food or drinks contain “no artificial colors or flavors” to make them more attractive and to induce consumers to pay more for them. But the complaint for this class action claims that one such company, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., still uses synthetic ingredients in its cranberry juices and blends.
The class for this action is all persons in the US, excluding people in California, who bought the products at issue during the class period. New York and Massachusetts subclasses have also been proposed.
Ocean Spray makes a line of juices and juice blends, many of which contain cranberries. The products at issue in this case include these:
On the front labels of these juices, Ocean Spray puts a small box with the promise, “No High Fructose Corn Syrup, Artificial Colors or Flavors.” The “natural” impression is reinforced with images of fruit, water, and farm fields, the complaint says.
However, the complaint claims that the labeling is false and that each of the juices or juice blends contains one or two synthetic ingredients meant to affect the fruit flavors: malic acid and/or fumaric acid.
Malic acid gives foods a sour, tart, or “fruity” taste. Although a type of malic acid, “l-malic acid,” can occur naturally in fruits and vegetables, the complaint alleges that the form used by Ocean Spray is “dl-malic acid,” which is “a synthetic ingredient, chemically manufactured from petroleum feed stocks. It is made in petrochemical plants from benzene or butane.”
Fumaric acid, the complaint says, can also occur naturally. But the complaint claims that the fumaric acid used in the juices “is also manufactured from petrochemical feedstock, either benzene or butane, through a chemical transformation to maleic anhydride.”
According to the complaint, then, the claim that the products contain “No … Artificial Colors or Flavors” is false.
The complaint quotes rules of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on artificial flavoring as well as Congress’s definition of “synthetic.” State laws also forbid the misbranding of foods and beverages.
The complaint claims that the company has violated laws against fraud and engaged in negligent misrepresentation and breach of warranty, and violated New York and Massachusetts state laws, among other things.