Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court decided the case, Pom Wonderful v. Coca-Cola, in favor of Pom Wonderful. The Court found that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s rules do not narrow the requirements of the Lanham Act.
The case arose when Coca-Cola introduced a beverage that contained 98% apple and grape juice, labeled as ‘pomegranate and blueberry’ blended juice. Coca-Cola defended its position by arguing that the labeling complied with the FDA’s food labeling requirements under the 1990 amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act called Nutritional Educational Labeling Act of 1990. The NLEA regulations, Coke argued, precluded a Lanham Act claim by Pom Wonderful. While the Ninth Circuit agreed with Coke, the Supreme Court did not.
This decision highlights the importance of pre-product-launch labeling and advertising review for food and beverage products. The very practical take-away from this case is that food and beverage manufacturers must take steps carefully to comply with both the FDA regulations and the Lanham Act’s prohibitions on making misleading statements to consumers.