A federal court in California has granted beverage manufacturer Santa Cruz’s motion to dismiss a putative class action alleging that the “evaporated cane juice” (ECJ) listed on its beverage labels is merely sugar, thus violating the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) required use of an ingredient’s “common or usual name.” Swearingen et al. v. Santa Cruz Natural Inc., No. 13-4291 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., order entered April 2, 2014).
Finding that FDA had primary jurisdiction over the matter, the court cited a March 5, 2014, notice that the agency has reopened the comment period on its draft industry guidance pertaining to the use of the term ECJ on food labels. Details about FDA’s action appear in Issue 516 of this Update. According to the court, this notice clearly indicates that FDA is currently engaged in “active rulemaking on the issue” and intends to resolve the matter. Citing FDA’s superior resources to determine whether ECJ is sugar and the likelihood that the pending FDA decision would affect the outcome of the case, the court dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice. The decision joins a spate of other cases on the subject of ECJ and food labels, some of which have had different outcomes.