Snapple Again Being Sued For Not Being ‘All Natural’

In 2007, Stacy Holk, filed a law suit in the New Jersey state court against Snapple manufacturer Cadbury Schweppes. Mz Holk’s case stated that the company willingly defrauded its consumers by stating that Snapple was ‘all natural’, even though there was an artificial sweetener amongst the list of ingredients.

Eventually the case evolved into a class action law suit and was brought to the federal court later in 2007.

However, in May 2008, Snapple fell under the new manufacturing name of Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. and not only sold and manufactured Snapple iced teas and juices but also Dr. Pepper, a popular soda that was originally manufactured by the Coca-Cola company.

A New Jersey federal judge threw out the case in June of 2008, ruling that the law suit was preempted by FDA regulations. These regulations, set forth by the FDA, provide a rough idea to companies about what they are allowed and not allowed to place on their food labels.

According to the preemption argument, the judge, Judge Mary Cooper, cited that the Food and Drug Administration’s product labeling regulations actually prohibited the plaintiffs from arguing such a case as it was based on state laws rather than federal laws, stating that the regulations “so thoroughly occupy the field of the beverage labeling at issue in this case that it would be unreasonable to infer that Congress intended states to supplement this area.”

In November 2008, Snapple introduced a new beverage line with a revised formula and a new bottle design. The new recipe focused on the drinks’ black and green tea leaves and actually replaced the man-made high fructose corn syrup with real sugar.

The company cited that their decision to makeover their drink recipes and bottles was due to increased competition by other tea and juice makers. Their sales figures from previous years seem to prove this statement, especially in consideration of the fact that more and more tea and juice beverages are being introduced on the market.

However, even though Snapple refrained from using high fructose corn syrup in 2008, it did not help in preventing the class action lawsuit from being revisited.

Now, almost two years later, this same consumer-fraud lawsuit has been revived in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, based on the finding that it was not, in fact, excluded from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations that cover food labeling rules. The revived law suit still argues that Snapple’s iced tea contained an artificial sweetener, high fructose corn syrup, even though the label stated that the drink was ‘all natural’. The law suit will now be on behalf of all consumers who purchased ‘all natural’ Snapple prior to the conversion in November 2008.

High fructose corn syrup is a man made ingredient composed of fructose and glucose. It is commonly used in a variety of foods and beverages and is behind one of the nation’s worst epidemics of all time – obesity. Unfortunately, high fructose corn syrup is cheaper to make, purchase and use than natural sugar. This is partly due to corn subsidies which are provided by the US government.

It is interesting to note that the the Corn Refiners Association immediately filed an amicus curaie brief on behalf of Snapple.

A panel of three judges concluded that “neither Congress nor the FDA intended to occupy the field of food and beverage labeling and juice products” in such a way that would prevent suits that are filed in a state court from challenging the truthfulness of product labels.

The judges further stated: “It does not appear that Congress has regulated so comprehensively in either the food and beverage or juice fields that there is no role for the states.”

A spokesman for Snapple, Greg Artkop, was quoted as saying: “We believe Snapple is all-natural and we’re confident we’ll ultimately prevail.”

The Plano, Texas based company, Dr Pepper Snapple, has actually reported a second-quarter profit that overcame analysts’ dim estimates and increased its 2009 forecast. The company’s net income was reported as rising to 46% to $158 million, equaling out to be roughly 62 cents per share from $108 million (42 cents per share) last year.

It seems that the company’s stock increased after a statement that predicted that the company’s earnings would soar to $1.96 per share this year.

To learn more about this class action law suit against the Snapple manufacture, you can search the court documents for Stacy Holk v. Snapple Beverage Corp, 08-3060, 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Philadelphia).

Photo Credit: justinlai

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