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A California consumer has filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., alleging the company falsely advertises certain juice beverages as not containing artificial flavors.

Plaintiff Crystal Hilsley originally filed the complaint in September in California Superior Court. The case has since been removed to federal court. Hilsley alleges she purchased Ocean Spray juice products, paying around $4 per bottle over a period of seven years, believing the beverages did not contain artificial flavors.

Specifically, she contends that despite the juices’ front-of-package labels stating the products have “No High Fructose Corn Syrup, Artificial Colors, or Flavors”, the drinks actually contain synthesized ingredients that are categorized as artificial flavors under California law.

“Defendants’ marketing of the products reflects this knowledge of consumers’ preferences for natural products — not by making the products only with natural ingredients, but by concealing from consumers that the products contain artificial flavors,” said the proposed class action lawsuit.

Moreover, Hilsley says that Ocean Spray’s Cran Apple juice includes DL-malic acid derived from petrochemicals, and that its Cran Grape juice contains fumaric acid – an ingredient synthesized from petrochemical feedstocks, which cannot be a natural ingredient.

The Ocean Spray false advertising lawsuit goes on to state that other consumers, like Hilsley, were misled when purchasing Ocean Spray’s drinks, and may have opted not to purchase the beverages had they known they allegedly contain artificial flavors.

“Plaintiff, as a reasonable consumer, is not required to subject consumer food products to laboratory analysis, to scrutinize the back of the label to discover that the product’s front label is false and misleading, or to search the label for information that California law and federal regulations require be displayed prominently on the front,” the complaint states.

Additionally, the lawsuit claims that State and federal law requires companies to properly disclose on their product labeling if the product is artificially flavored. But Ocean Spray allegedly did not do this and instead chose to mislead consumers.

The specific products named in the Ocean Spray false advertising lawsuit include:

  • Ocean Spray Cran Apple
  • Ocean Spray Cran Grape
  • Ocean Spray “100% Apple Juice Drink
  • Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail
  • Ocean Spray Wave Apple with White Cranberries
  • Ocean Spray Wave Berry Medley
  • Ocean Spray Cran Cherry
  • Ocean Spray Cran Pineapple
  • Ocean Spray Cran Pomegranate
  • Ocean Spray Diet Cran Pomegranate
  • Ocean Spray Diet Cran Cherry
  • Ocean Spray Cranberry Cherry Flavor 100% Juice

The proposed putative class action seeks to represent all California citizens who purchased the Ocean Spray juice products in California on or after January 1, 2011. The Ocean Spray drinks

Hilsley is requesting, among other things, an award for restitution, injunctive relief, actual and punitive damages, and court costs. She is also asking the court to grant an order mandating that Ocean Spray discontinue selling the alleged mislabeled drinks and conduct a corrective advertising campaign.

In June 2012, Ocean Spray was hit with another false advertising class action lawsuit. This case, also filed in California federal court, alleges the labeled certain juices as “no added sugar” and misled consumers into thinking the juices were therefore low in calories, even though they contained fruit sugars. However, the plaintiff in this case asserts that Ocean Spray violated state and false advertising laws because foods labeled as having no sugar must have a disclaimer saying they aren’t low in calories.

Hilsley is represented by Rick L. Shackelford and Daniell K. Newman of Greenberg Traurig LLP.

The Ocean Spray False Advertising Class Action Lawsuit is Hilsley et al. v. Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. et al., Case No. 3:17-cv-02335-GPC-MDD in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

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