Minute Maid Has a Fight on Its Hands Over 'Healthy' Label

Parent company Coca-Cola wants class action lawsuit alleging deceptive marketing dismissed
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 22, 2023 9:00 AM CDT
Coca-Cola Defends 'Healthy' Label for Minute Maid
Minute Maid orange juice drinks are on display at JJ&F Market in in Palo Alto, Calif., Monday, Feb. 9, 2009.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Minute Maid parent company Coca-Cola fought Thursday to dismiss a class action lawsuit alleging the labeling of six-ounce juice boxes as "good for you" and "part of a healthy, balanced diet" is a deception. Plaintiff Gary Reynolds filed suit in March, stating whole fruit pictured on Minute Maid packaging may be healthy, but juice containing concentrated sugar from fruit is not. His lawsuit cites scientific evidence showing fruit juice increases one's risk of serious chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. "Knowing that parents are looking for healthy beverages for their children, the Coca-Cola Company exploits and deceptively perpetuates the misperception that juice is healthy," his complaint states, per Courthouse News.

The complaint claims the labeling violates the FDA's nutrient content regulations and fortification policy, per the National Law Review. But Steven Zalesin, an attorney for Coca-
Cola, argued the opposite in a San Francisco court on Thursday, stating the "healthy" claims meet FDA requirements for implied and explicit nutrient content claims. Though the FDA has proposed updating its definition for the implied nutrient content claim of "healthy," 100% fruit juice with no added sugars would still qualify, per the Law Review. Under current rules, Minute Maid can make the claim that the product contributes to a healthy diet because it's 100% juice with no added sugar and is "an excellent source of vitamin C and B," Zalesin said.

US District Judge Vincent Chhabria "appeared skeptical," noting there's a "clear implication" that fruit juice actively contributes to a healthy diet, per Courthouse News. Zalesin countered that the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services say as much. The CDC notes 100% juice can be given to children over 1 year old, but "whole fruits are healthier options." Chhabria noted images of whole fruit on Minute Maid packaging could imply that fruit juice is as healthy as whole fruit. But "we certainly didn't say that," Zalesin responded. Chhabria acknowledged judges across California and the country are "eternally inconsistent" on the issue, per Courthouse News. Chhabria is expected to issue a ruling within weeks. (Read more Minute Maid stories.)

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