Recent Green Marketing Litigation
Dr. Pepper recently won litigation over whether it had made deceptive marketing claims by labeling products made with “all-natural” ingredients. The Northern District Court of California dismissed the case finding that no reasonable consumers would not expect the product to be completely free of any trace pesticides.
The litigation was brought by Hawyuan Yu who claimed that he purchased Mott’s Natural Applesauce and Natural Apple Juice from a Costco on multiple occasions believing that they were insecticide free because of the “all-natural ingredients” label. However, the products contained the synthetic insecticide acetamiprid. Acetamiprid is a chloropyridinyl neonicotinoids insecticide. Note. Acetamiprid is not on the list of synthetic substances allowed for use in “organic” crop production (7 CFR §205.601).
Yu argued that Natural Applesauce and Natural Apple Juice should not contain any amount of acetamiprid in the products because the “natural” label leads reasonable consumers to believe that there would not be any levels of pesticides in the products. He sued for unfair and deceptive acts and practices under the California Legal Remedies Act, violation of California’s False Advertising Law, violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law, breach of express warranty, and unjust enrichment. The court disagreed. It applied the reasonable consumer test and held that reasonable consumers would not expect the product to be completely free of any trace pesticides, following case law including the recent 9th Circuit decision in Becerra v. Dr. Pepper/Seven Up, Inc.
It is important to note that food labeled as organic is backed by federal regulations and independently verified, while “natural” is not presently a regulated term — FDA regulatory proceedings to define the term “natural” in regard to food is still ongoing.