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Walmart Sued over Juice Labels; Echoes of POM v Coke?

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Six weeks after the Supreme Court gave POM Wonderful the green light to sue Coca-Cola over its juice labels, Walmart has been target in a consumer class action lawsuit making near-identical allegations.

In a complaint filed in Florida on July 17, plaintiffs Ira Reynolds and Patricia Bell accuse Walmart of deceiving shoppers by labeling a juice comprising predominantly apple and white grape juice concentrate as '100% Cranberry Pomegranate', with the phrase 'flavored juice blend' underneath in smaller type.

The juice, which also features pictures of pomegranates and cranberries on the label, in fact contains a "miniscule" amount of pomegranate and cranberry juice, but is priced at $2.78 per 64 oz bottle, whereas Walmart's "virtually identical" Great Value apple juice product retails at $1.88 per 64 oz bottle, alleges the complaint.

Owing to the allegedly deceptive label, the plaintiffs paid over the odds for the juice because "they would be enjoying the healthful and nutritional benefits associated with a product they believe at least primarily contains pomegranate juice," it adds.

Compliance with FDA juice labeling rules 'does not provide a shield from liability', say plaintiffs

Whether the labels comply with the letter of the law governing juice labeling enshrined in the federal Food Drug Cosmetic Act (FDCA), is not the issue here, stresses the complaint.

"Plaintiffs' claims are predicated on the fact that the naming and labeling are misleading and deceptive even if they comply with the minimum requirements set forth by the FDA regulations, as the FDA regulations simply set a 'floor,' or minimum requirements.

"Indeed, compliance with the minimum requirements is necessary, but is not sufficient to determine if a product's label is false and misleading, and simply does not provide a shield from liability."

For example, it adds: "FDA regulations did not require Defendant to name it's product ;Cranberry Pomegranate,' as opposed to 'Apple Grape' or myriad of other options. Defendant made that decision because of its marketing strategy."   


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