Plaintiff claims company’s juice contains synthetic weed killer

The Juice Is Loose

Brooklyn, New York resident Alexandra Axon made a bold attack against companies from her home state’s distant cousin, Florida, in the Eastern District of New York.

Axon alleges that Citrus World Inc. and Florida’s Natural Growers Inc., producers of Florida Natural orange juice, are falsely labeling and advertising their juice as a natural product, even though it allegedly contains glyphosate.

If you’re a hardcore reader of AD-ttorneys@law, you’ve seen glyphosate pop up in past stories. It’s a herbicide used around the world, commonly known as “Roundup,” and sold by Monsanto since the 1970s. It’s … uh … cropped up (sorry, couldn’t resist) in lawsuits we’ve covered involving Quaker Oats and Bigelow Tea. A recent high-profile trial against Monsanto’s parent company found that Roundup caused terminal cancer in the plaintiff. He was awarded $289 million in damages.

Axon takes exception to the extensive use of “natural” in the advertising for Florida Natural orange juice (although she spills little ink on the product’s name). The suit mentions the use of phrases and terms such as:

• “We just squeeze, flash-pasteurize and pour into freshnesssaving cartons”

• “100% pure”

• “straight-from-grove taste” 

But these claims are all undercut by the alleged presence of glyphosate and its byproducts in the juice. Axon brings charges against the companies including false and misleading marketing, breach of express warranty, and unjust enrichment.

The Takeaway

Should it continue, a central aspect of this case will involve whether traces of herbicide render “natural” advertising false or misleading – and if so, what specific levels of herbicide make a lawsuit viable.