You may have heard about the lawsuit filed up in New York, alleging Snapple Beverage Corp. misled consumers by labeling its teas and juice drinks containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as “All Natural.” The plaintiffs originally tried to make the suit a class action, but got slapped down on that.
Late last month, a federal judge basically tossed out the rest of the suit, too.
The plaintiffs had claimed violations of a state law against “deceptive practices,” unjust enrichment, and breach of warranty. Unfortunately for them, they apparently hadn’t done much homework, because the judge found they “provided nothing but conjecture as to the prices they paid for Snapple and the prices of comparable beverages available for sale at the time of their Snapple purchases.”
That meant, according to the court, there was nothing on which to base an award for damages, even if they had been able to prove any damages to start with. Beyond that, in the absence of any hard numbers, they weren’t able to show that Snapple had profited unjustly at their expense. Worse, according to the judge, they didn’t even offer anything to prove they had purchased the beverages in question specifically because of that “All Natural” labeling.
No proof of any financial damages suffered, no proof they relied on the labeling in making their purchases… no case.
Now, you know from what I’ve written before, I’m no fan of HFCS. But the phrase “All Natural” is one of those vague bits of marketing-speak that a wise consumer always takes with the proverbial grain of salt. As far as I know, there’s no hard-and-fast definition of what “natural” exactly means. And, technically, HFCS is made from corn, which (last I checked, at least) is “natural.”
So I can’t necessarily argue with a company that labels a product “All Natural” even though it’s got HFCS in it. It’s a case of caveat emptor… like when you see “Reduced Fat” on a label and you know that means you need to check the sugar/carb content, because all too often they reduce the fat but add extra sugar.
Those labels are essentially meaningless — like when they call a breakfast cereal “wholesome” and carry on about “whole grains,” so Mom can delude herself into thinking her kids are eating something other than a bowl full of sugar for breakfast.
No, my problem with HFCS is not that it’s “unnatural,” but rather that it’s ubiquitous. I mean, just try getting away from it. Read the labels of the products already in your pantry and refrigerator. I suspect you’ll be surprised at how many places you’ll find HFCS lurking. Unexpected places. Places where you’d never expect to find extra sugar.
What you might not know is that HFCS is used as a preservative. It’s one of the things that gives our food such long shelf lives. The vast quantities of unnecessary simple sugar carbohydrates in our diet, the sugars that overstimulate your body’s metabolism and can lead to insulin resistance syndrome (Type 2 diabetes), well, that’s just a bonus.
It’s no wonder there’s an obesity problem in the USA. We’ve been getting stuffed full of hidden sugar since we were kids. We’ve been conditioned into a collective sweet tooth of massive proportions (and many of us have developed bodies of massive proportions as a result).
The corn producers have been running a bunch of those “there’s nothing wrong with HFCS” commercials in which they emphasize how it’s made from corn, and (like all sugars) is “fine in moderation”… while they neatly sidestep the REAL issue: how it’s nearly impossible to consume HFCS “in moderation” because it seems to be lurking in almost every darned prepared food on the grocery store shelves!
Makes it all the more important to read those labels, eh?