Coca-Cola Co's Simply Orange juice brand isn't simply orange juice, according to a lawsuit filed against the beverage company on Friday.
Instead, the lawsuit in an Illinois federal court claims that the product undergoes extensive processing, and is dependent upon added aroma and flavoring in a way not found in nature. The plaintiff, a consumer, accuses Coca-Cola (KO.N) of fraud, and seeks class action status.
The consumer, Randall Davis, had bought the product - whose label says "100% Pure Squeezed Orange Juice" - at stores "for personal, family, or household purposes," the lawsuit said.
Coca-Cola spokeswoman Susan Stribling said the company's Simply and Minute Maid juices are properly labeled in full accordance with FDA regulations.
"This lawsuit has nothing to do with misleading consumers and everything to do with lining class action lawyers' pockets," Stribling said. "It is a meritless case against which we will vigorously defend ourselves."
Lawsuits against food and beverage companies over alleged misleading marketing have drawn more attention, with sometimes dubious results for the plaintiffs.
A suit accusing Taco Bell (YUM.N) of misrepresenting the amount of beef in its products received national headlines last year. But Taco Bell vehemently disputed the claims, which were soon voluntarily withdrawn by the plaintiff.
The latest lawsuit said that chemically engineered "flavor packs" are added to Simply Orange, in order to mimic the flavor of natural orange juice. Consumers are willing to pay a premium price for Simply Orange, due in part to their false belief in the freshness of the product, the lawsuit said.
"Coca-Cola misrepresented that Simply Orange was 100% pure and natural orange juice when in fact it was not," the lawsuit said.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois is Randall Davis, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, v. The Coca-Cola Company, 12-cv-02391.
(Reporting By Dan Levine in San Francisco; Editing by Richard Chang)