What is “evaporated cane juice”? The complaint for this class action claims that it’s nothing more or less than sugar. It also alleges that the use of this term in the ingredient list of Rite Aid Corporation’s praline pecans instead of the simpler word “sugar” is deceptive, leading consumers to think the snack is healthier than it really is.
The Nationwide Class for this action is consumers in all fifty states, presumably those who bought the product with actionable representations during the statute of limitations. State subclasses have also been proposed, at least for New York.
Rite Aid sells its Gourmet Praline Pecans as part of its Dreamhouse Fine Foods line. The front labels say that they are “made with pecan halves and a sweet and salty glaze.” The back label says that “our Praline Pecans start with premium pecan halves. We then dip each nut in crispy sweetened glaze and add just a touch of sea salt to satisfy your sweet and salty craving.”
The ingredient panels lists “Pecans, Evaporated Cane Juice, Water, Sea Salt.”
The complaint quotes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as saying that the words “evaporated cane juice” “suggest that the ingredients are made from or contain fruit or vegetable ‘juice’ as defined in” the US Code.
In the US Code, “juice” is defined as “the aqueous liquid expressed or extracted from one or more fruits or vegetables, purees of the edible portions of one or more fruits or vegetable, or any concentrates of such liquid or puree.”
According to the complaint, “Consumers expect the ingredients on a product to be declared in their common or usual name.”
Using the more complicated term, the complaint claims, gives consumers “the impression that the ‘sweet … glaze’ is an actual juice in which the Products are coated.” This is deceptive, the complaint alleges, because it “results in the impression that the Products are a better nutritional choice than other comparable products which truthfully and non-deceptively identify ‘sugar’ as their second most predominant ingredient.”
According to the complaint, “‘Evaporated cane juice’ does not describe the basic nature of the food because it is not a type of juice.” This matters because the terms “have a material bearing on price or consumer acceptance of the Products because they will pay more for proucts with positive qualities, of which real juice has many—nutrients, naturally occurring sugar and vitamins.”
Among the counts in the complaint are negligent misrepresentation, breaches of warranties, fraud, and unjust enrichment.