Pepsico agreed to a $9 million settlement in connection with a 2011 class action lawsuit which accused the worldwide food and beverage operator of deceptive use of the word “natural” on its Naked Juice brand labels.
The complaint alleged that certain ingredients used in Naked Juice including calcium patothenate, which is made from the carcinogenic compound formaldehyde along with ascorbic acid and zinc oxide, are not natural and clearly not representative of “the freshest, purest stuff in the world,” a marketing phrase used for Naked Juice products.
In addition, the complaint accused Pepsi of using genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in certain Naked Juice products, even though Naked Juice labels claimed to not contain GMOs. “Defendants knew that their protein beverages contained GMOs, but intentionally duped consumers into believing the drinks were GMO-free,” according to the lawsuit. “Defendants further misled consumers into believe that some of the beverages’ fiber content is due to the ‘all natural,’ ’100% juice’ rather than the latest advances in synthetic fibers such as Fibersol-2 (a proprietary synthetic digestion-resistant fiber produced by Archer Daniels Midland and developed by a Japanese chemical company.”
The $9 million settlement has yet to be officially approved by a judge. Pepsi’s capitulation signals a growing understanding that terms like “natural” and “pure” need better regulatory definitions, as they are confusing and largely meaningless.