Supreme Court Regulates Food Transparency

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court ruled today that Coca-Cola can be sued for false advertising for its pomegranate-blueberry juice–which contains less than a percent each of pomegranate and blueberry juice–despite complying with FDA regulations.

This may seem like an advertising or health issue, and it is, but the problem is inherently one of design. To recap, Pom, which makes 100% pomegranate juice (along with some other blends), sued Coca-Cola for selling a Minute Maid juice named, sort of ridiculously, “Enhanced Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored 100% Juice Blend of 5 Juices.” On the bottle itself, the words “pomegranate” and “blueberry” are given prominent billing. None of the other juices (grape, apple, and raspberry) are listed by name on front of the bottle, despite the fact that they comprise 99.4% of the juice. Looking at the bottle, the Supreme Court ruled, you’d get the sense that this is primarily a juice made of pomegranate and blueberry, two trendy antioxidant-heavy (and expensive) fruits.

While there’s nothing unsafe or wrong about the actual product, the way it’s visually presented is grossly misleading to consumers, and it’s certainly not the only product like that. Coca-Cola attempted to play the smart customer card, with its attorney saying “we don’t think that consumers are quite as unintelligent as Pom must think they are.” That little remark turned out to be a mistake, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who wrote the Court’s response, saying, “Don’t make me feel bad, because I thought this was pomegranate juice.”

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