Coke loses labeling case, is Silk next?

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Coca-Cola sells many beverages to many people in many places. But, it will no longer be selling “Pomegranate Blueberry” made with 99 percent apple and grape juice.

The case, brought on by Pom Wonderful, a drink with 100% juice combinations including pomegranate, was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court with a unanimous 8-0 decision (one justice didn’t take part in the case). Coca-Cola and industry partners fear that more litigation could be on the way for individual drink claims, even those approved by FDA.

While the ruling sends a stern decision on what juice beverages can and cannot put on their label, what does this mean for milk? Possibly nothing. But, it could reignite activity surrounding the 38-page letter National Milk Producers Federation sent to the FDA in 2010 regarding “imitation dairy products” like soymilk, rice milk, Muscle Milk, soy yogurt, and dairy-free ice cream. That campaign actually began as far back as February 2000, with no success at this point.

NMPF typically operates through the legislative and regulatory channels, but there’s a chance the Supreme Court ruling helps their case in regards to misbranding.

“The Supreme Court ruling is a wake-up call that misleading labeling claims are not acceptable, and should expect to be challenged,” said Chris Galen, NMPF senior vice president of communications. “We certainly see similarities between this case and our long-standing issue with FDA that the agency needs to do a better job of enforcing standards of identity for dairy foods.

“As we have repeatedly stated: the name of a food matters.  And when that name on the label is deceiving consumers – whether that label technically complies with federal regulations or if that label blatantly disregards federal standards of identity (as is the case with many imitation dairy products) – look for more aggressive intervention.  Labels should be accurate, not deceptive.”

But waging a legal case is a much different approach than a regulatory one. With all the imitation drinks out there, the plaintiff would need to decide whether to go after just one, or all of the offenders.

Size matters

In the Pom vs. Coke case, the offending drink was Minute Maid’s “Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored Blend of 5 Juice.” The words “Pomegranate Blueberry” are in much larger type than the rest of the phrase.

Pom brought on the case after losing market share to the drink in 2008, although Pom itself is facing deceptive advertising claims of its own. The separate case against Pom was brought on by the federal government after Pom claimed pomegranate juice can treat or prevent heart disease, prostate cancer, and other illnesses, and is currently with the Federal Trade Commission.

Source: ABC News



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