Expect the Unexpected

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The naked truth about Naked Juice


Naked Juice sent me this check as part of a class action settlement.

Naked Juice sent me this check as part of a class action settlement.

Naked Juice paid $9 million in a class action settlement and all I got was this lousy check for $6.67. That could be the saying on my new T-shirt. But the shirt would probably cost me more than $6.67, and I don’t want to blow this huge windfall in one fell swoop.

When I went to the mailbox this past weekend, I was surprised to find the check, picture above, in the mail. Not only was the amount tiny, but the check itself was tiny too, measuring 6 inches wide by just 2 inches tall. A baby check, a checkling.

Photo of Naked Juice before the lawsuit settlement. The word "natural" has since been removed from the label.

Photo of Naked Juice before the lawsuit settlement. The word “natural” has since been removed from the label.

The top of the check says it’s from the Naked Juice Settlement Administrator. In fine print at the bottom, it says it is for the settlement of the class action lawsuit, Pappas v. Naked Juice of Glendora, Inc. Ahh, so that’s it.

That explains everything.

Except, I had no idea what the Pappas lawsuit was, or why I was one of the settlement recipients. I don’t think I’ve ever bought or tasted Naked Juice, let alone filed a claim against them for anything.

For now, the reason I got this check remains a mystery. But what isn’t a mystery, I learned, is what the lawsuit was all about.

In 2011, Naked Juice and its parent company PepsiCo, were sued by Pappas for mislabeling and lying to consumers about its line of juice and smoothie products, claiming they were “100% juice,” “All Natural” and “free of GMOs” genetically modified organisms.

Turns out Naked Juice is not 100% juice and is loaded with synthetic chemicals and GMOs.

As explained in the lawsuit, Naked Juice products contain synthetic compounds such as calcium pantothenate (synthetically produced from formaldehyde) and Fibersol-2 (a proprietary synthetic digestion-resistant fiber produced by Archer Daniels Midland and developed by a Japanese chemical company), as well as fructooligosaccharides (a synthetic fiber and sweetener) and inulin (an artificial and invisible fiber added to foods to increase fiber content without the typical fiber mouth-feel).

Fructooligosaccharides? What the…? Not exactly 100% juice.

The class action suit also charged:
•  The company falsely claimed the juices were “All Natural,” when in fact some ingredients added to it were made from genetically modified soy.
•  Naked Juice touted its nutrient content, when in fact the nutrients did not originate from the fruit and vegetable ingredients, but were added separately.
•  PepsiCo tried to cultivate a “healthy and socially conscious image” of Naked Juice to boost sales of its products, but in fact, the juices are full of sugar, as much per ounce as Mountain Dew.

In Naked Juice’s defense, its attorneys were quick to pounce on the definition of the word “natural.” Just what does that word mean? A lot of leeway has been given to it, and it’s not until recently that the FDA has started cracking down on the word’s use in labeling. The FDA’s definition of “natural” acknowledges the lack of a proper definition:

From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

After being exposed by the lawsuit, Naked Juice couldn’t comply with the FDA’s definition of “natural” and agreed to pay $9 million to consumers who had the right to expect the labels on products to be an accurate representation of what was inside the package. The “natural” labeling has since been removed from Naked Juices.

Sign in a supermarket explaining why the Kashi products were removed.

Sign in a supermarket explaining why the Kashi products were removed.

Naked Juice isn’t the only recent culprit in the “natural” mislabeling game.

Kashi, which has an earthy-crunchy wholesome image, “7 whole grains on a mission,” and its parent company Kellogg’s, were also sued in a class action suit in 2011 for misleading consumers with the “natural” label.

Turns out Kashi’s “All Natural” GoLean shakes include synthetic ingredients such as sodium molybdate, phytonadione, sodium selenite, magnesium phosphate, niacinamide, calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamin hydrochloride and potassium iodide.

There’s also a class action suit against ConAgra and its product Wesson Oil, which claims to be “100% natural,” but is actually made with genetically modified ingredients.

I think I’ve now decided what to do with that $6.67 Naked Juice settlement.

I’m going to donate it to GMO Free CT, a consumer group in my state calling for the labeling of products that contain GMOs.

It’s not much of a donation, but it’s the thought that counts.

And my thoughts tell me there should be truth in advertising. To quote an old margarine ad, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”

 

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