Judge sets Feb 2018 deadline to conduct settlement conference in Hint ‘all natural’ case

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Judge sets Feb 2018 deadline to conduct settlement conference in Hint ‘all natural’ case

Related tags: Law

Fruit infused water brand Hint has until February 2, 2018, to conduct a settlement conference* to resolve a legal dispute with plaintiffs who have accused it of misleading shoppers with its ‘all natural’ claims.

The Hint lawsuit​**​ - filed in January 2017 in California - has been followed with interest, as it centers on propylene glycol, an FDA-approved synthetic substance widely (and legally) used in natural flavors as a solvent and/or carrier, in which it serves as an incidental additive. 

The plaintiffs, however, argued that it does not belong in a product marketed as ‘all-natural.’

Hint – which has not responded to requests for comment on a possible settlement to the lawsuit - had originally pledged to fight back, and take the case all the way to a trial, if necessary​, with COO Theo Goldin telling FoodNavigator-USA that he was aware that “many companies have agreed to pay what they consider a 'nuisance fee' rather than deal with the distraction of a protracted lawsuit.”

But he added: “I suppose we could have done the same, but, you know, I just wouldn’t feel right about that… We intend to defend ourselves rather than contribute to a toxic legal environment that encourages more and more lawyers to file these shakedown lawsuits…That defense will occur in a court of law.”

The company had sought to get the case stayed​ (put on hold) while the FDA probed ‘natural’ claims on food labels. However, that request was refused in June by Judge Virginia Phillips, who argued that there was no guarantee that the agency would address the ‘natural’ issue in a timely manner, or at all.

* A settlement conference is a meeting between opposing sides of a lawsuit at which the parties attempt to reach a mutually agreeable resolution of their dispute without having to proceed to a trial.

**The case is Lisa Kim Madrigal et al v Hint Inc 2:17-cv-02095, central district of California. Get the full details HERE​.

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