Tropicana Products Inc. is the latest company to be sued over use of the term ‘natural’ – this time to describe its not-from-concentrate ‘100% pure and natural’ orange juice.
The complaint, filed in the District Court for the Eastern District of California, claims that PepsiCo’s Tropicana not-from-concentrate Pure Premium juice is “heavily processed” and adds aroma and flavoring “to provide its processed orange juice an aromatic and flavor profile closer to fresh juice and to mask the effects of processing and storage”.
According to Tropicana’s website, each 59-oz container of its Pure Premium juice has 16 fresh-picked oranges squeezed into it.
The plaintiff, California woman Angelena Lewis, claims that Tropicana leverages consumer demand for natural products to market its juice as ‘100% pure and natural’, although mass produced orange juice needs to undergo processing, including deaeration and pasteurization, to extend shelf life and ensure stability.
“To extend shelf-life, Tropicana NFC [not-from-concentrate] juice undergoes extensive processing which includes the addition of aromas and flavors to its NFC juice,” the complaint says. “This extensive processing changes the essential nature of the NFC juice sold by Tropicana. It is not natural orange juice. It is instead a product that is scientifically engineered in laboratories, not nature, which explains its shelf-life of more than two months.”
Tropicana spokesperson Michael Torres said in an emailed statement: "Tropicana remains committed to offering great-tasting 100 percent orange juice with no added sugars or preservatives. We take the faith that consumers place in our products seriously and are committed to full compliance with labeling laws and regulations."
The lawsuit is seeking class action status, and compensatory, treble and punitive damages.
The Food and Drug Administration currently has no formal definition of the term ‘natural’, although the agency has said it does not object to the term, as long as it is “truthful and not misleading and the product does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”
Update: This article has been updated to include a statement from Tropicana, which was provided after publication deadline.