Minute Maid Can Be Sued Over .3% Pomegranate Juice

Ruling allows companies to sue competitors for false advertising

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 13, 2014 12:59 PM CDT

(Newser) – The US Supreme Court has waded into a juicy suit: It yesterday ruled that POM Wonderful is free to sue Coca-Cola's Minute Maid over the latter's "Pomegranate Blueberry" juice labels. Pomegranate and blueberry juices make up just 0.3% and 0.2%, respectively, of the drink's contents—or the equivalent of "a teaspoon in a half gallon," POM's attorney argued, per USA Today. Smaller lettering notes it's a "Flavored Blend of 5 Juices," with the bulk of that being cheaper ingredients like apple and grape juices. The suit was initially dismissed two years ago by a lower court that ruled labeling decisions fell under the FDA's purview, and that federal law didn't allow rivals to sue over false labeling.

But the FDA "does not have the same perspective or expertise in assessing market dynamics that day-to-day competitors possess," Justice Anthony Kennedy said in the 8-0 ruling, calling Minute Maid's labels "deceptive." Coca-Cola, for its part, asserted its commitment to "clear labeling," and said that it would become evident at trial that "our product was not the cause of POM's poor sales." The San Francisco Chronicle sees the ruling as opening "the door to private as well as government enforcement of laws against misleading food labels." (POM has itself been criticized for making deceptive claims.)

The front of a bottle of Minute Maid Pomegranate Blueberry beverage.
The front of a bottle of Minute Maid Pomegranate Blueberry beverage.   (AP Photo)
This Sept. 27, 2010 file photo shows a bottle of POM Wonderful juice in Philadelphia.
This Sept. 27, 2010 file photo shows a bottle of POM Wonderful juice in Philadelphia.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
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