Last month, the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 – Justice Brayer abstained – that Coca-Cola misled consumers by marketing a product called “Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored Blend of 5 Juices,” which contained only 0.3% pomegranate and 0.2% blueberry juice.
Coca-Cola Co.’s defense upheld the fact that they followed the letter of the law, as outlined by the FDA regarding product claims and labeling. However, Justice Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, cited that although Coke followed the FDA’s rules, they did not follow the Lanham Act, which is a trademark law preventing competitors from making false or misleading claims. Kennedy states that food and trademark laws “complement each other in the regulation of misleading labels.”
As a result of this landmark ruling, CPG organizations must take a closer look at their packaging, specifically their claims and regulatory compliance management. This announcement would also contribute to the significant up-tick of litigation to come from two groups:
- Consumer advocacy groups that feel consumers are being provided with misleading information
- Organizations that feel threatened by new products that threaten their business models
Adhering to the words contained in FDA regulations is no longer sufficient, and claims management – both explicit and implicit – will need to evolve for all organizations.
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