Blawgletter doesn't imbibe much in the way of your juices — your oranges, your apples, your tutti-fruttis — or of your teas — even orange pekoe and oolong. And we sure don't drink Snapple®, despite (because of?) its "Made from the Best Stuff on Earth®" boast. It tastes too sweet for our buds — although we hear good things about the Diet Peach.
News last week that the Third Circuit upheld a false ad claim against Snapple thus prompted a yawn. But then we saw that the case posed the question of what "natural" on a food product label means. That'll wake up your granola!
The plaintiffs say Snapple's "All Natural" tag line hides the fact that its drinks use a kind of fake sugar — high fructose corn syrup — instead of the real deal — good old sucrose, which looks like this:
We learned, to our wonder, that the feds have NEVER defined "natural" for food label use. The Food and Drug Administration chose NOT to, giving guidance and writing ugly warning letters instead.
The Third Circuit ruling turned on the FDA's coyness. Au contraire to Snapple's preemption defense, the panel held, federal law leaves room for state law claims of untrue labeling. Holk v. Snapple Beverage Corp., No. 08-3060 (3d Cir. Aug. 12, 2009).
Whether using HFCS instead of sugar makes the "All Natural" claim false and, if so, what to do about it will remain for the district court on remand.