Simply Orange Juice is accused of deceiving health-conscious customers into believing one of its juices is “all natural” as labeled — but it’s not, a class-action lawsuit says.
What customers don’t know, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court, is that the Simply Tropical juice drink contains “toxic, manmade” ingredients known as PFAS that are commonly called “forever chemicals.”
PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of chemicals that take awhile to naturally break down and can harm a person’s health, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency says these chemicals have been used in products dating back to the 1940s.
A New York man who previously bought Simply Tropical juice is suing Coca-Cola and the Simply Orange Juice Co., which is owned by Coca-Cola, alleging false and deceptive advertising when it comes to its tropical drink product, a complaint filed Dec. 28 says.
“Simply beverages are aggressively marketed to health-focused consumers with the products’ pervasive ‘all natural’ representations prominently displayed across the products’ packaging,” the complaint says.
The Simply Tropical drink “does not disclose the presence of PFAS — or any other synthetic chemical — in their ingredients.”
In a statement provided to McClatchy News on Jan. 19, Coca-Cola said it’s “aware of the lawsuit, which focuses on our Simply Tropical product, and will vigorously defend the allegations in the complaint.”
“We stand by the quality of our products,” the statement said.
The New York man argues he had an unspecified, independent third party test Simply Tropical juice drink revealing the product had high levels of certain PFAs that have been “indisputably linked to negative health effects.”
What is known about PFAS
PFAS are sometimes used as a coating for products — including clothes, furniture, cooking surfaces and more — to make them resistant to heat, grease, oil, stains and water, according to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.
Studies conducted in animals have shown that exposure to high levels of PFAS could affect reproduction, the thyroid gland, the immune system and could be particularly harmful to one’s liver, the CDC says.
But more research is needed to gauge how PFAS affect a person’s health, according to the agency.
One particular PFA known as PFOA — which the man’s lawsuit claims is found in the Simply Tropical drink — is classified as a “possible human carcinogen” because of its potential link to kidney cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
The EPA estimates thousands of PFAS are already in the U.S. environment and can be found in drinking water, soil, food, household items such as carpets and cookware, and more.
A 2020 study conducted by Consumer Reports found that several popular brands of water, including Coca-Cola’s sparkling mineral water brand Topo Chico, contained “toxic” PFAS. Specifically, Topo Chico was found to have the highest levels of PFAS, according to Consumer Reports.
In response, Coca-Cola said its products “tested below all drinking water standards for PFAS and other criteria set by current U.S. federal and state regulatory agencies” and that the company will “prepare for more stringent standards in the future.”
What is the goal of the class-action lawsuit?
The New York man suing over the Simply Tropical drink argues he would have never bought the product if he knew the truth about its ingredients.
He believed the drink “was an ‘all natural’ juice beverage and thus was free of artificial, synthetic, and harmful chemicals like PFAS” but was deceived into buying it, the complaint says.
The man claims that Coca-Cola and Simply Orange have not only harmed him with their deception but the “public-at-large,” according to the complaint.
His lawsuit aims to recover an unspecified amount of damages to be decided upon in court for himself and other Simply Tropical consumers.
He is demanding a trial by jury.