High Court Juice Maker Can Sue Coke for Misleading Consumers

High Court: Juice Maker Can Sue Coke for Misleading Consumers

The Supreme Court rules that juice maker Pom Wonderful can sue Coca Cola for labeling one of its drinks "Pomegranate Blueberry" although it contains just a trace of those juices.

WASHINGTON -- U.S. juice maker Pom Wonderful can sue Coca Cola (IW 500/27) for labeling one of its drinks "Pomegranate Blueberry" although it contains just a trace of those juices, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The top panel reached its decision with a vote of eight to zero.

Pom Wonderful, which sells 100% pomegranate juice, claimed it suffered a loss in sales as a result of Coke's labeling practices.

The California juice company complained that the Minute Maid drink made by Coke was made almost entirely -- about 99.5% -- from a mixture of apple and grape juice, a fact that consumers would not easily be able to discern from reading the label.

The front label of the Coca-Cola beverage, beneath the words proclaiming "pomegranate blueberry," also has the words "flavored blend of five juices" in smaller type.

Coca-Cola had won a lower court case in San Francisco court with a ruling that the company's labeling practices were consistent with U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules.

Coca-Cola attorney Kathleen Sullivan had argued that only the FDA was responsible for maintaining the "national uniformity" of labeling.

But the Supreme Court rejected that argument "because Congress intended national uniformity in food and beverage labeling."

The court added that U.S. laws require uniform labeling standards to prevent "unfair competition in all covered markets."

One justice on the nine-member panel, Stephen Breyer, did not hear the case.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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