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Snapple beats ‘all-natural’ lawsuit

25-Jan-2011

A federal court judge has rejected a lawsuit against Snapple Beverage Corp. that alleged the company misled consumers by labeling drinks containing high fructose corn syrup as ‘all-natural’.

Judge Denise Cote of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York granted summary judgment to Snapple, agreeing with the company that plaintiffs cannot prove that they suffered due to an alleged ‘price premium’ paid for Snapple drinks.

Snapple Iced Tea is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and part of the problem arises from the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no clear definition for the word ‘natural’.

In August last year, another court ruled that it should seek FDA guidance as to whether high fructose corn syrup was an all-natural ingredient. But the FDA said in September that defining the term was not a priority for the agency as it already requires all ingredients to be listed on product labels.

No one from Snapple Beverage Corp. was available for comment prior to publication.

In March 2009, Dr Pepper Snapple released an all-natural version of its iced tea, using sugar instead of HFCS, but denied that it was driven by trends for natural ingredients or any consumer choice to avoid HFCS.

HFCS controversy

This is not the first time that drinks firms have faced legal action for labeling drinks containing HFCS as natural.

In 2007, both Cadbury Schweppes and Kraft faced lawsuits after making 'natural' label claims on 7Up and Capri Sun respectively. Both companies changed the labeling of their products before any legal action was taken.

Campaigners against HFCS point to epidemiological studies that have linked the consumption of sweetened beverages and obesity, as well as some science that claims that the body processes the syrup differently than other sugars due to the fructose content, leading to greater fat storage.

However, industry associations like the Corn Refiners Association – and others – have repeatedly claimed there is no scientific evidence to suggest that HFCS is responsible for people becoming obese.

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