Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snapple Purchasers’ “All Natural” Claims Meet Fraud Pleading Standards

This posting was written by William Zale, Editor of CCH Advertising Law Guide.

Purchasers of Snapple drink products pleaded with particularity that “all natural” labeling of beverages containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was deceptive and fraudulent under California consumer protection laws, the federal district court in Sacramento has ruled.

The purchasers' broader allegations regarding unspecified “commercial advertisements” and “other promotional materials” were dismissed.

Labeling Claims

The purchasers alleged that between March 4, 2005 and March 4, 2009, Snapple used “All Natural” and other similar terms in labeling its drink products. The purchasers submitted examples of the labels from bottles of each of the sixty drink products, all of which contain the term “All Natural” or “100% Natural.”

The purchasers alleged that this labeling deceived consumers because the drink products contained HFCS, which they asserted is not a natural product. The purchasers further alleged that if they had not been deceived by the labels on the products, they would not have purchased the products, but would have purchased alternative drink products.

These allegations satisfied the heightened standard for specifying the who, what, where, and how of fraud, under Rule 9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court held.

Advertisements, Promotional Materials

The purchasers' allegations regarding unspecified “commercial advertisements” and “other promotional materials” were dismissed because they failed to (1) identify any specific advertisements or promotional materials; (2) allege when plaintiffs were exposed to each advertisements or materials; or (3) explain how such advertisements or materials were false or misleading, according to the court.

The January 6 opinion in Von Koenig v. Snapple Beverage Corp. will be reported at CCH Advertising Law Guide ¶64,116.

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