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Consumers Fight Back Against Odwalla's Motion to Dismiss

Trying to stay healthy by avoiding sugar in your diet? Well that may be difficult if the label listing ingredients on a product uses creative terms such as "cane juice" instead of explicitly listing sugar.

Odwalla, Inc. ("Odwalla" or the "Company"), a Coca-Cola owned company, tried to dismiss a suit in June 2013 in which consumers alleged that the Company illegally misled them by titling sugar as "evaporated cane juice" in its products. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers stayed the case while the FDA reviewed its own guidelines regarding the term, "evaporated cane juice."

In May 2016, the FDA found the term, "evaporated cane juice," is misleading and should not be used in place of the term sugar. However, the Company points out that because it removed the term from its ingredients after the FDA's mandate, the mandate did not apply to any purchases made before the new guidelines were crafted. Odwalla also argued that there is no federal law preventing it from using the term. In August, 2016, the Company once again tried to dismiss the case on the grounds that "the [FDA]'s suggestions aren't binding or enforceable."

The plaintiff, Robin Reese, fought back, saying, "The law - and FDA's interpretation of that law - has always been the same. If an ingredient falls within the definition of 'sucrose,' on food labels, it must be called by a name containing the magic word 'sugar.'" Using any other term to describe sucrose misrepresents the product. Reese also pointed out that while the Company removed the misleading term from its labels, it has not guaranteed that it will not use it again. In order to ensure that consumers will not be misled by ingredients listed on any label, Reese believes the case should go forward

The legal team at SFMS has significant experience litigating FCA matters. If you have any questions regarding this subject or this posting, please contact Nick Lussier (nlussier@sfmslaw.com) or Chiharu Sekino (csekino@sfmslaw.com). We can also be reached toll-free at (866) 540-5505.

Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah, LLP is a law firm with offices in California, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. SFMS is an active member of Integrated Advisory Group (www.iaginternational.org), which provides us with the ability to provide our clients with access to excellent legal and accounting resources throughout the globe. For more information about our firm, please visit us at www.sfmslaw.com.

Source: Sieniuc, Kat. "Class Slams Odwalla's Bid To Dodge 'Cane Juice' Suit." Law360. Portfolio Media, Inc. 16 Sept. 2016. 

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