A putative statewide consumer-fraud class action has been filed in a Florida state court against Living Harvest Foods, Inc. over use of the term “evapo- rated cane juice” (ECJ) on food product labels rather than sugar. Miller v. Living Harvest Foods Inc., No. n/a (Fla. Cir. Ct., Miami-Dade Cnty., filed January 30, 2014). While the specific products at issue are not named, the plaintiff contends that the defendant “conceals the fact that its Products have added sugar by referring to the sugar as ECJ, a ‘healthy’ sounding name made up by the sugar industry years ago to sell sugar to ‘healthy’ food manufacturers to use in their consumer products. ECJ is not the common or usual name of any type of sweetener, or even any type of juice, and the use of such a name is false and misleading. Defendant uniformly lists ECJ as an ingredient on its Products, as well as on its website and other promotional material.”
The complaint cites U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance materials on the subject and warning letters to other food companies, noting that the defendant continued to use the “unlawful and misleading reference to ‘evaporated cane juice’” on its ingredient labels despite FDA’s actions. Alleging that this labeling misleads consumers into “paying a premium price for products that do not satisfy the minimum standards established by law for those products and for inferior or undesirable ingredients or for products that contain ingredients not accurately listed on the label by its common name,” the plaintiff seeks both injunctive and compensatory relief. The complaint includes counts for violations of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and unjust enrichment.