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From Naked to Semi-Nude: Naked Juice Agrees to Pay $9 Million

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By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on July 29, 2013 11:55 AM

In 2011, five separate claims against Naked Juice, a PepsiCo company, were consolidated into a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, reports the LA Weekly. The essence of the complaint centered around the use of the words "all natural," "100% juice," and "100% fruit" on the Naked Juice labels.

Plaintiffs argue that the use of the those words on the labels were false and misleading, and were violations of California Unfair Competition law, California False Advertising law, California fraud law, and breaches of warranty and strict liability under state, and federal common laws.

Now, Naked Juice has agreed to pay $9 Million to settle the claims, even though it continues to deny "all of plaintiff's claims." PepsiCo also stated that they would drop the word "natural" from Naked Juice labels until the FDA provides more guidance on how the word "natural" should be used.

Plaintiffs rely on the fact that Naked Juice contains additives that are synthetic, and allegedly genetically modified. From calcium pantothenate, a compound produced from formaldehyde, to various forms of synthetic fiber, plaintiffs claim that the addition of these compounds makes Naked Juice far from natural.

In a statement, PepsiCo stated that it “added [a] boost of vitamins” to some of the Naked Juice beverages, but did not respond to questions about whether synthetic fibers are added to the juices, reports The Boston Globe. To counter GMO claims, PepsiCo plans on having a third-party confirm Naked Juices use of non-GMO products.

The reason this case is not so cut and dried is because the FDA does not have an official definition of “natural.” The FDA website states:

From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

If this were to go to trial, the main questions of fact would be whether the substances such as the fibers added to the juices, would be considered synthetic by the FDA.

With many cases filed contesting the use of the word “natural” on food labels, PepsiCo essentially decided that it did not want to be the test case. This settlement brings to light the need for the FDA to step in and provide an actual definition of “natural” to provide guidance to companies, and consumers.

Until then, it may be best for companies to avoid costly litigation, and follow the example of PepsiCo and err on the side of not using words like “natural” on the label unless they are absolutely positive that there’s nothing synthetic in the product.

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