Since the 1906 passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act, the federal government has pursued entities which sell mislabeled food items. Yet that hasn't stopped companies from getting creative when it comes to describing what exactly is in the products they're selling. As evidence, Starbucks has landed in court to fight claims brought by its customers that its Refreshers drinks don't actually contain the fruit mentioned on the packaging.
At issue are the Mango Dragonfruit Lemonade, Mango Dragonfruit, Pineapple Passionfruit, Pineapple Passionfruit Lemonade, Strawberry Açai, and Strawberry Açai Lemonade. A pair of plaintiffs from New York and California are seeking $5 million in damages, claiming that the Refreshers lack any mango, passionfruit, or açai, and are only labeled as such to inflate the price. For example, the main ingredients listed in the "Strawberry Açai Base" are water, sugar, and white grape juice concentrate. Natural flavors appears as the fifth ingredient, while fruit and vegetable juice is listed seventh.
Are Flavors Ingredients?
For its part, Starbucks issued a statement refuting the claims. "The allegations in the complaint are inaccurate and without merit," the statement reads. "We look forward to defending ourselves against these claims."
In an effort to have the charges dismissed, the coffee chain claimed that the names of its products are meant to describe flavors and not actual ingredients. Reasonable customers, it argued, should not be confused by the way it has positioned the Refreshers drinks. Further, Starbucks claimed that customers who had questions about the contents of the drinks could have asked a barista about what goes into them.
But U.S. District Judge John Cronan, who presided over the hearing, wasn't moved by Starbucks' arguments, reportedly stating, "Nothing before the court indicates that 'mango,' 'passionfruit,' and 'açaí' are terms that typically are understood to represent a flavor without also representing that ingredient." Other drinks on Starbucks' menu, he noted, actually contain the ingredients that are listed as flavors, such as honey and mint. Judge Cronan did, however, throw out two of the 11 claims brought against the company, one for intentionally defrauding customers and the other for unjust enrichment.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.