(NaturalNews) The Pepsi-owned Naked Juice brand will soon be getting a labeling makeover following a lawsuit that challenged the processed food giant's indiscriminate and deceptive use of the word "natural." According to new reports, PepsiCo has not only agreed to pay out a $9 million settlement as part of the case, but has also relented from labeling its juice products as "all natural," pending further clarification by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the appropriate use of this widely-misunderstood term.
Back in 2011, plaintiffs filed a class-action lawsuit against Pepsi for labeling Naked Juice as being "all natural," despite the fact that many of the products in this brand category contain added synthetic vitamins and other questionable ingredients. According to the Associated Press (AP), plaintiffs had accused Pepsi of even adding a synthetic fiber material made by Big Ag corporation Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) into some types of Naked Juice, an allegation that Pepsi ultimately did not deny.
The case, known as Natalie Pappas v. Naked Juice Co. of Glendora, took particular issue with added ingredients in Naked Juice like zinc oxide, ascorbic acid, and calcium pantothenate, the latter of which is made from formaldehyde, a carcinogenic compound. These and other questionable ingredients, claimed Pappas and others, hardly represent "the freshest, purest stuff in the world," a marketing catchphrase widely used in connection with Naked Juice products.
Besides this, Pappas also accused Pepsi of deceptively using genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in Naked Juice products, despite the fact that they are all labeled as not containing GMOs. Pepsi reportedly denied this claim, insisting that no GMOs are used to produce Naked Juice. The company soon plans to have a third-party certifying group like the Non-GMO Project verify that Naked Juice products are GMO-free in order to quell growing fears about hidden transgenic additives.
"Defendants knew that their protein beverages contained GMOs, but intentionally duped consumers into believing the drinks were GMO-free," states the lawsuit. "Defendants further misled consumers into believe that some of the beverages' fiber content is due to the 'all natural,' '100% juice,' rather than the latest advances in synthetic fibers such as Fibersol-2 (a proprietary synthetic digestion-resistant fiber produced by Archer Daniels Midland and developed by a Japanese chemical company)."
More companies coming under scrutiny for deceptive use of 'all natural'
The $9 million settlement has yet to be officially approved by a judge, and one of the prosecuting firms involved has said it plans to challenge it, citing a belief that the monetary relief will not reach "a broad enough audience," according to AP. Still, Pepsi's capitulation signals a growing understanding that terms like "natural" and "pure" need better regulatory definitions, as they are confusing and largely meaningless.
A number of other major food names including Kashi, Frito-Lay, and AriZona Iced Tea have also been the subject of similar lawsuits in recent years. Frito-Lay, for example, was sued by a New York man back in 2012 for labeling Tostitos and SunChips as containing "all-natural ingredients." Both products are loaded with GM oils, grains, and other additives, which are anything but natural, and yet the company has continued to dupe consumers into thinking that its products are nutritionally superior to others on the market.
"Genetically modified organisms are created artificially in a laboratory by swapping genetic material across species to exhibit traits not naturally theirs," stated the Frito-Lay complaint. "Since a reasonable consumer assumes that seeds created in such a way are not 'all natural,' advertising Tostitos and SunChips as natural is deceptive and likely to mislead a reasonable consumer."