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OFF BEAT: Juice can still be 'Pomegranate Blueberry' with only trace amounts, court rules


Minute Maid can keep labeling one of its beverages “Pomegranate Blueberry” even though the drink contains barely a whisper of either juice, says an appellate court.

According to news reports, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco held Thursday that Minute Maid can keep labeling one of its beverages “Pomegranate Blueberry” even though it is made up almost entirely of apple and grape juices and contains only 0.3% pomegranate juice and 0.2% blueberry juice.

The court said it is up to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to rule on this matter, and that its regulations allow juice makers to name their product after a “flavoring” juice that is not the primary product.

“As best we can tell, FDA regulations authorize the name (Minute Maid) has chosen,” said Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain in the three-judge panel's unanimous ruling. “For a court to act when the FDA has not—despite regulating extensively in this area—would risk undercutting the FDA's expert judgments and authority.”

However, the court said in its ruling, “We do not hold that Coca-Cola's label is not deceptive.”

The juice product, introduced in September 2007, has the label “Help Nourish Your Brain” above a drawing of fruits. Below the drawing are the words “pomegranate blueberry” in large letters, followed by “Flavored blend of 5 Juices” in smaller letters. The ingredients are 99.4% apple and grape juices, which are cheaper than pomegranate and blueberry juices.

Minute Maid is a unit of the Coca-Cola Co. Pom Wonderful L.L.C. sued Coca Cola in 2008, charging it was misleading consumers on the product composition and challenged its name, labeling, marketing and advertising. The 9th Circuit's ruling upheld a lower court ruling on the issue.