Is national grocery chain Whole Foods lying about sugar? The retailer is facing a class-action lawsuit for falsely advertising products as containing “evaporated cane juice” when, in fact, that’s just a synonym for sugar. File this one under ridiculous lawsuits.
The basis for the suit is a cookie. Specifically, it’s a nutmeal raisin cookie. Plaintiffs in the suit allege that “evaporated cane juice” is merely a deceptively healthy-sounding way of saying “sugar.” Really. Before you shake your head (or your fist) in disgust at this abuse of the legal system, you should know the FDA sort of agrees with the plaintiffs.
In 2009, the FDA issued a draft guidance for the food industry that stated “sweeteners derived from cane syrup should not be listed on food labels as evaporated cane juice because the sweetener is not juice as defined in federal regulations.” However, the agency never got around to finalizing the rule and has no firm date for doing so.
Whole Foods is, understandably so, a bit stunned by the suit and responded in court documents that most customers “associate the word ‘cane’ with ‘sugar cane’ and thus know it to be a sweetener. The complaint contains no factual allegations regarding what the plaintiff (or any other consumer) thought [evaporated cane juice] to be if not a sweetener.” In short, it’s a polite way of saying, “Duh! What did you think it was?”
Normally, I’m all over companies that do this sort of thing. This time, I’m in the company’s corner. I’m a label reader and I’m fairly well educated in food issues. I can’t understand how anyone could see “evaporated cane juice” and not think “sugar cane.” Honestly, what else could it be? Has Whole Foods been running amok stealing canes from little old ladies and squeezing them to get “cane juice?”
Whole Foods isn’t the only company to ever face this ridiculous issue. Chobani, Late July Snacks, Blue Diamond, Zola acai & pomegranate drinks, Steaz Ice Teas and a host of others have also been on the hook for “deceptive” practices in recent years. Regardless, it all boils down to one simple issue:
People don’t have common sense anymore.
I’m especially shocked that Whole Foods customers, arguably among those most likely to be food educated (why else would they go there?) are suing. These are the people who eschew drinking any coffee that isn’t organically grown, picked by Buddhist nuns on a mountaintop under a full moon on Tuesdays in months containing only one vowel. Seriously.
And now, I’m expected to believe that these same customers don’t know what “evaporated cane juice” is? No. Not today. I did not just fall off the beet wagon. I could understand their upset if the products were labeled “sugar free” yet contained “cane juice.” This is not the case, though.
While I am all for correct product labeling, especially in food, I’m all for people not being stupid, too.
I do not want to pick up a product and have the label read:
- Raisins (dried grapes, i.e., grapes that were dehydrated)
- Nutmeal (nuts that were taken out of their shells and ground)
- Eggs (calcium-encapsulated by-products of chicken ovulation)
Some things are just self-evident if only one applies a little common sense. In this case, the plaintiffs are clearly lacking in the aforementioned quality. Good luck, Whole Foods!