Unnatural Exposure for Pepsi's Naked Juice

Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that PepsiCo will also remove the "non-GMO" claim from its Naked Juice packaging. The Fool regrets the error.

Once you go down the rabbit hole of the government determining what's "natural" and what's not, it's hard to get back out, but food and beverage companies like PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP  ) may need it to do so since plaintiff's attorneys seem determined to wring cash out of them for dubious violations of labeling laws.

Pepsi's Naked Juice brand recently agreed to settle for $9 million a class action lawsuit that the claims of "natural" made on its bottles were misleading or false because they contained unnaturally processed and synthetic ingredients. They were also charged with using genetically modified ingredients.

As readers may know, I'm a proponent of GMO labeling because I believe that when an organism is being manipulated in the lab and being released into the food chain, consumers ought to know they're ingesting that. Yet while I might not be big supporter of GMO crops, I wouldn't stop Monsanto (NYSE: MON  ) or Syngenta from developing their seeds. I just want to know if what I'm eating or drinking contains their Frankenfood strains.

But when it comes to claims of what constitutes "all natural," I'm willing to give food and drink producers a bit more leeway as there's a certain amount of processing that has to go on to make the goods available. Even the FDA recognizes the difficulty in the task and has posted on its website the reasons behind its reluctance to pursue the issue.

From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is 'natural' because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

And because the regulatory agency has not stepped in, the trial lawyers have filled the void. Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM  ) has been sued because its "natural" private-label soda contained caramel flavoring, citric acid, and carbon dioxide. Kraft Foods' (NASDAQ: KRFT  ) "all natural" Capri-Sun was sued previously because it contained high fructose corn syrup and Kellogg's Kashi brand has been similarly sued because it contains bromelain, an enzyme derived from pineapples, which requires acetone in its production.

Campbell Soup finds itself in the netherworld between "all natural" claims and the issue of GMO labeling. A new line of soup has been targeted by lawyers because it contains GMO corn, and with around 86% of the country's corn corp having been genetically modified, it's tough to avoid its use. Unilever's Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream -- the poster boys for the all-natural set -- have been sued as well because 48 of their 53 ice cream flavors are claimed to be decidedly unnatural as they contain "alkalized cocoa, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, or other ingredients that either don't exist in nature or that have been chemically modified."

As part of its settlement, Naked Juice will stop claiming its beverages are "all natural," though it will be hiring a third-party testing lab to verify its claims that it meets Europe's stringent threshold of less than 0.9% GMO content per ingredient to allow the non-GMO label.

Allowing the government to determine what is and what isn't a certain type of food is a slippery slope I'd prefer not letting them start on. Yet if we don't, food and beverage makers will be left naked and exposed for the trial lawyers who will continue to exploit the vacuum the government's absence creates.


Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (4)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 10:39 PM, getthetruth2 wrote:

    So you own a company that sells organic and badmouth the GM companies - makes sense since that is what the organic millionaires are doing and the only way they can justify their existence. They have to create a need for their product by saying how bad GMO food is ---right

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2013, at 10:39 PM, getthetruth2 wrote:

    You need to pump up your stocks by bad mouthing GM companies

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2013, at 1:24 PM, TMFCop wrote:

    getthetruth2,

    I own WWAV as a result of having received the spinoff from Dean Foods, which is decidedly not a non-GMO company, so my ownership of the organic milk producer has nothing to do with my criticism of GM foods.

    I actually harbor no ill will towards such foods, but I would prefer to know when I'm ingesting them. I don't trust the EPA or the FDA to protect us from corporate cronyism so despite their saying "Trust us, GMO foods are safe," I am hesitant to believe them.

    Being able to eat food that has been engineered in the lab to resist being sprayed with the potent Roundup herbicide and still produce fruit seems sketchy at best. But if you want to that's okay by me. Just let me know when I am about to eat it (hence my support of GM labeling) so I can make an informed decision.

    Thanks for reading,

    Rich

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2013, at 4:55 PM, SPR507 wrote:

    You people are pathetic. You don't like GM food, but yet you'll drink GM wine (where do you think all the new varieties came from) and take the GM drugs that your doctor prescribes (drugs that are made in the lab, are not found in nature).

    Rather selective in your rants about GM I'd say.

    You can't handle the truth (based in science).

    .

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2013, at 5:33 PM, groggy920 wrote:

    Rich -

    Can you provide an example to support your conspiracy theory where the EPA and the FDA have set aside public good in exchange for "corporate cronyism"?

    I'd also like to point out that it is not just the EPA and the FDA that say GMO foods are safe. It is also the AMA, the WHO, the European Food Safety Authority, the French Academy of Sciences, the Australian Academy of Science, most land-grant universities, and an overwhelming majority of scientists. The clear and compelling scientific consensus on the matter is well established, although under reported. I could understand your cynicism if it was the FDA and the EPA all alone on an island in their position, but that is definitely not the case.

    Many of us that are pro ag-biotechnology would be far more supportive of labeling if it was accompanied by accurate information. If not, it appears that what is being portrayed as a "right to know" (which I support) is really just a cover for the activist agenda of trying to drive people away from this important technology (which I do not support). I also worry that labeling opens the door for nuisance lawsuits, which, your article would seem to suggest, is a real concern.

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2013, at 2:07 PM, Kate11 wrote:

    Hi I am maria age 23. I am doing Juice fasting from past 20 days. Kindly tell me is it good for health or not? Because I do not know the in long run I get the result or not. However, I need your answers about it. I am now joined this forum for help. <b><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHhITUPHTs0">Juice fasting for weight loss</a></b>

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