A federal judge crushed the class-action lawsuit against AriZona Beverage like one of the company's tallboy cans. In 2010, plaintiffs claimed that the company misrepresented its products as “all natural.” The judge tossed the case out with a scathing dismissal, reports bevnet.com.
U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg decertified the class of consumers in the suit and stated that the plaintiffs did not introduce any evidence to prove their allegations that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and citric acid are artificial ingredients. While the ruling is a big deal for AriZona, the result of the case and, in particular, Judge Seeborg’s rationale in dismissing the lawsuit, could help other beverage companies defending themselves in similar suits.
Justin Prochnow, an attorney with Greenberg Traurig LLP, who specializes in labeling and regulatory issues affecting the beverage industry, told bevnet.com that the biggest takeaway from the case was the judge’s reasoning that a processed ingredient does not necessarily mean that it should be precluded from being called “natural.”
“The case gives other companies a good road map for defending themselves against possible arguments [in other lawsuits],” Prochnow told the beverage industry news source. In recent years, similar claims have been filed against Xing Tea marketer New Age Beverage Co. and Pepsico and the Coca-Cola Co., inc, who used the terms “natural” or “all-natural” in their marketing.
Plaintiffs alleged that consumers are misled about the origins of the products ingredients. In the AriZona lawsuit, Judge Seeborg rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that “HFCS is not natural because patents have been issued for the process of producing it” and “that if HFCS were a naturally occurring substance such as ‘a new mineral discovered in the earth or a new plant found in the wild’ it would not be patentable,” is rhetoric as opposed to a valid argument, particularly considering that U.S. patent law is not permissible as evidence under federal guidelines.
The magazine Men's Health put two of Arizona's products, "Arizona Kiwi Strawberry" and "Arizona Rx Energy" on a list of the 20 unhealthiest drinks of America. Now it can be included in the magazine's 20 unhealthiest natural drinks in America list.