PepsiCo has announced that it will no longer label its Naked juices as being ‘‘all natural,’’ after paying $9 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed the drinks contain artificial ingredients.
The company said in an email statement that it uses an ‘‘added boost of vitamins’’ in some of the drinks. However, a lawsuit filed against the company said the vitamins are actually synthetic ingredients, which includes a fiber made by Archer Daniels Midland. While PepsiCo did not confirm or deny that these synthetic fibers are included in the juices, the company is dropping the use of the word ‘‘natural’’ until more solid regulatory guidance emerges.
The case highlights the ambiguity around the use of the word ‘‘natural’’ in the industry. While the Food and Drug Administration currently does not have a clear definition for what makes up a natural product, it says that it does not object to the term’s use if the food is free of "added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances." The FDA says it is tough to define a food product as natural, since it has likely been processed and is no longer a "product of the earth."
One of the lawsuits against PepsiCo claims the company cultivates a "healthy and socially conscious image" to boost sales of the Naked juice drinks, which cost around $4 a bottle. The suit noted that PepsiCo knew its target market would be willing to pay more for “natural” drinks that are 100 percent juice and free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The lawsuit also argued that PepsiCo used GMOs in its Naked juices; however, the company has denied this claim and says its drinks will continue to be labeled "non-GMO." PepsiCo says it plans to use a third party to confirm the non-GMO status of the juices.
Earlier this month, independent testing commissioned by the Center for Environmental Health found that more than a year after pledging to reformulate its products to eliminate a cancer-causing chemical, PepsiCo purchased from ten states still contains high levels of carcinogenic caramel coloring. PepsiCo made the promise after the passing of Prop 65, a California law that requires labels on products containing cancer-causing ingredients. The CEH study showed that while Coca-Cola has largely complied, tests on Pepsi products show the company is still using caramel coloring containing the cancer-causing chemical 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI) in all ten products tested from outside of California.