Class action targets Clover-Stornetta Farms’ yogurt for ‘evaporated cane juice’ labeling

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cane juice Pleading

Class action targets Clover-Stornetta Farms’ yogurt for ‘evaporated cane juice’ labeling
Clover-Stornetta Farms has joined the ranks of firms targeted with class action lawsuits that allege added sugar is being concealed by listing it on pack as ‘evaporated cane juice’.

A putative nationwide class action was filed by two California on April 4, 2013 against Clover-Stornetta Farms alleging that the company mislabeled an ingredient in 14 different flavors of its yogurt products.

The complaint says: “The FDA has instructed that sweeteners derived from sugar cane syrup should not be listed in the ingredient declaration by names which suggest that the ingredients are juice, such as evaporated cane juice.

"The FDA considers such representations to be false and misleading because they fail to reveal the basic nature of the food and its characterizing properties."

The same two California residents recently filed a lawsuit against Trader Joe’s​ for allegedly using ‘evaporated cane juice’ instead of the more accurate terms ‘dried sugar cane syrup’ or ‘sugar’ on several private label products from Greek-style yogurt to soy milk, despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has repeatedly told firms not to use it.

The plaintiffs also target the “all natural” claims on Clover-Stornetta Farms products, alleging that “locust bean gum, tapioca starch, elderberry juice (for color), and beet juice concentrate (for color)”​ are not natural ingredients.

Chobani

The language in the Clover-Stornetta Farms (Gitson v. Clover-Stornetta Farms, Inc., No. 13-1517, U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., San Francisco Div.) and Trader Joes’s (Gitson v. Trader Joe’s Co., No. 13-1333, U.S. District Court, Northern District, California, San Francisco Division) complaints echo that in a lawsuit filed against Greek yogurt giant Chobani by Californian plaintiff Katie Kane last year, which notes that: “In truth, evaporated cane juice is little different than added white sugar. White sugar and evaporated cane juice both have 111 calories per ounce.

“Both types of sugar come from the same cane crop, and are about 99% sucrose.”

“Draft” guidance

In a motion to dismiss Kane's lawsuit filed in November 2012, Chobani said that the FDA's 2009 guidance advising firms not to use the term evaporated cane juice is "a draft"​ and "non-binding"​ from a legal perspective.

Meanwhile, it "is not plausible that a reasonable consumer would be deceived"​ by the term evaporated cane juice added Chobani, which said that in any case, the plaintiff's state law claims are preempted by federal labeling laws. 

It added: "Plaintiffs cannot plausibly claim that they were unaware that 'evaporated cane juice' is a sweetener.

"To any reasonable consumer (and especially a consumer with the apparent concerns over the source of sugars these plaintiffs allegedly had), the word 'cane' in the ingredient list indicates a sweetener ingredient. This is particularly true for plaintiffs who allege that they knew 'dried cane syrup' was a sweetener ingredient and, therefore, cannot plead ignorance about evaporated cane juice."

Click here​ to read about the Trader Joe's case.

Click here​ to read about the Chobani case.

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