A supreme court decision last week could help consumers trying to understand what’s really inside the products they are buying. In a unanimous decision, the court granted POM Wonderful permission to sue Coca-Cola over the latter’s labeling of its Minute Maid branded juice.
What’s this all about?
POM makes 100% pomegranate juice. Minute Maid has a line of juice products, including Minute Maid Enhanced Juice, Pomegranate Blueberry Blend + Omega-3/DHA. Much to your dismay as a consumer, over 99% of the beverage is from apple and grape juice concentrate. But you wouldn’t know it from reading the label or the ingredient list:
APPLE, GRAPE AND POMEGRANATE JUICES FROM CONCENTRATE, FRUIT AND VEGETABLE JUICES (FOR COLOR), BLUEBERRY JUICE FROM CONCENTRATE, NATURAL FLAVORS, RASPBERRY JUICE FROM CONCENTRATE, MODIFIED GUM ACACIA, DHA ALGAL OIL, VITAMIN C (ASCORBIC ACID), CITRIC ACID (PROVIDES TARTNESS), CHOLINE BITARTRATE, VITAMIN E (ALPHA-TOCOPHERYL ACETATE), SOY LECITHIN, VITAMIN B12.
Coke claimed that it’s labeling is in line with FDA regulations. Indeed, it is. But the groundbreaking Supreme Court decision invoked the Lanham Act which prohibits false and misleading statements about a product. The Lanham Act can only be invoked by companies suing other companies for unfair competitive practices.
Could this be good for consumers?
We’re no fans of POM Wonderful’s advertising (See why here and here), but in this particular case, there is an alignment between our call for transparency in food labeling and POM’s business interests. The unanimous 8-0 decision means food marketers will need to be more careful with their messages. Sticking to the letter of the law won’t be enough.