LOS ANGELESNaked Juice Co. has agreed to test its ingredients in order to verify they do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as part of a $9 million settlement agreement in a consolidated class action lawsuit.
The proposed settlement provides that Naked Juice shall verify through independent testing a "Non-GMO statement" on its product labels. Naked Juice plans to conduct the program through Eurofins GeneScan, an independent testing organization, and the program must adhere to a European standard that "permits no more than 0.9% GMO content in each ingredient and only when such presence is adventitious."
Naked Juice must implement the program for at least three years and estimates it will cost $100,000 per year. The juice company has three months from the effective date of the court's final order and judgment to do so.
Naked Juice last month reached the proposed settlement in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (Western Division). Several proposed class actions accused Naked Juice of violating California laws by making references that its products were "All Natural". The lawsuits were consolidated, and a 2012 amended complaint alleged violations of California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law and Unfair Competition Law.
Under the settlement, Naked Juice has agreed to remove the "All Natural" references in its advertising, labeling and marketing six months after the effective date of the court's final order. Naked Juice anticipates the changes will cost it $450,000.
Those costs are exclusive of the $9 million Naked Juice has agreed to pay to settle the case. The settlement provides for attorney's fees and expenses of up to $3.12 million and grants purchasers of 39 products the right to obtain up to $75 with proof of purchase and $45 without proof of purchase. Consumers must submit their claims online or by mail by Dec. 17, according to the settlement website. Each of the five named plaintiffs also are entitled to an "incentive award" of $2,500.
Naked Juice has denied any wrongdoing in the case, which still requires approval from U.S. District Judge John Kronstadt.
"Our juices and smoothies are made with all-natural fruits and vegetableswith no added sugar and no preservatives," a company spokeswoman said in a statement to ABC News. "In some products, we also include an added boost of vitamins. Naked juice and smoothies will continue to be labeled 'non-GMO', and until there is more detailed regulatory guidance around the word 'natural'we've chosen not to use 'All Natural' on our packaging."
A number of lawsuits alleging false labeling and advertising over the phrase "natural" or "all natural" have been filed against food and beverage companies, reflecting ambiguities over the meaning of the words due to a lack of clarity from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In a lawsuit filed against the tortilla giant Gruma Corp., a federal judge last month referred to FDA "the question of whether and under what circumstances food products containing ingredients produced using bioengineered seed may or may not be labeled 'Natural' or 'All Natural' or '100% Natural'". U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers also put a stay on the case for six months.
Gregory Huffman, a lawyer representing Gruma, today said FDA hasn't yet communicated with the federal court on whether it will weigh in.
A spokesperson for FDA today said the agency "is reviewing the order."