Naked Juice Co. has agreed to pay $9 million to settle a class-action suit alleging that it falsely advertised some of its juice and smoothie products as "all natural" and non-genetically modified, according to the website Law360.com.
Under the deal, Glendora-based Naked Juice, owned by PepsiCo., continues to deny that its product labels were misleading or false but has agreed to shell out the money for a settlement fund and to redesign their labels to either eliminate or modify the questionable representations. It will no longer describe its juices as "all natural."
The plaintiffs alleged that such a designation was false because many of the juices contained Fibersol-2 (a soluble corn fiber used to increase the fiber content of foods) fructooligosaccarides (a fructose-based alternative sweetener and indigestible fiber) and inulin (a soluble fiber) and also contained genetically modified soy. They claimed that the company was violating California false advertising and unfair competition laws.
Naked Juice has also agreed to hire an independent tester to confirm the accuracy of its labels' "non-GMO" claim as well as create a database to electronically track and verify the ingredients for the Naked Juice line.
Naked Juice called the deal "fair, reasonable and adequate" while denying "all of plaintiffs' claims." "However, until there is more detailed regulatory guidance around the word 'natural,' we've chosen not to use 'all natural' to describe our juices and smoothies," a Naked Juice spokesperson told BeverageDaily.com.
They are not changing their name to Partially Clothed Juice, however.
Naked Juice was first targeted in five separate class actions in 2011 that were consolidated in the Central District of California the following year.
The complaint alleged that the company deceptively advertised some of its products -- including its Acai Machine, Protein Zone and Mango Veggie juices -- by using the all natural and non-GMO claims on their labels even though the products contained unnaturally processed and synthetic ingredients as well as ingredients derived from genetically modified crops.
The complaint also alleged that the products were labeled as containing certain vitamins and nutrients when they actually contained chemically distinct vitamin substitutes.
The problem is that the federal government hasn't really defined what a "natural" food ingredient is. According to the Food and Drug Administration's website: "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."
We have only one thing to say to that. Fructooligosaccarides!