Today the Supreme Court will review a case between POM Wonderful LLC and industry giant Coca-Cola.
POM accused the beverage behemoth for falsely labeling and advertising Minute Maid’s “Pomegranate Blueberry” juice. Despite prominent photos of both fruits on the package, the product actually contains just 0.2 percent blueberry juice and 0.3 percent pomegranate juice. The rest is a blend of apple and grape juice.
In Coca-Cola's defense, the Minute Maid label complied with FDA labeling regulations, which permit products may be named after ingredients supplying primary flavor.
But this dispute isn’t just about superfruits. The crux of the case will fall on the Lanham Act, which disallows deceptive statements about products. “The legal questions before the Supreme Court are discrete, but boil down to whether a company like Pom can sue another company (Coca-Cola) for a misleading label that has been interpreted as permissible by the Food and Drug Administration,” reports an article in AdWeek.
“The foregoing requirements under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) as amended by the NLEA are not, as such, privately enforceable,” says a legal brief filed late 2013. Read: As many aspects of food labeling and marketing are regulated by FDCA, Coca-Cola argues that a private company such as POM cannot accuse the company of such labeling woes in the first place.
“Once Congress and FDA consider and directly approve a label statement as accurate and non-misleading, a private party cannot contest that very statement, or attempt to show that it is or false or deceptive, under another federal statute,” say Coke’s legal filings.
Recall that POM was also in legal battle with the FTC for claiming pomegranate juice was clinically proven to reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction.