Friday, November 04, 2022

A lemon of a lawsuit against lemon-flavored water

Angeles v. Nestlé USA, Inc., --- F.Supp.3d ----, 2022 WL 4626916, No. 21-CV-7255 (RA) (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2022)

The court dismissed Angeles’ NY GBL and related claims alleging that San Pellegrino Essenza Lemon & Lemon Zest sparkling mineral water deceptively indicated that it was made with actual lemons and lemon zest rather than flavoring. The court found deception implausible given the use of “flavored” on the label. (I admit, I would be tempted to go the other way based on the “lemon zest,” which is a specific thing and not a well-known flavoring, along with the pictures of actual lemons on the label. But mostly I’m trying out cross-posting to Mastodon,, and LinkedIn, since it seems to me that it might be time to increase readers’ options for following this content.)

The bottle displays “S. PELLEGRINO ESSENZA,” “SAN PELLEGRINO TERME – 1899,” “LEMON & LEMON ZEST,” “FLAVORED MINERAL WATER WITH NATURAL CO2 ADDED,” as well as “drawings of fresh full and cut lemons, lemon peels and leaves from the lemon plant, in a bottle covered in yellow cellophane.” The back label however, says that it “CONTAINS NO JUICE” and includes the Nutrition Facts panel, which states that it only contains “CARBONATED MINERAL WATER” and “NATURAL FLAVORS.” Angeles alleged that “[c]onsumers will expect the Product’s lemon taste is provided by lemon ingredients and have an appreciable amount of lemon”—“an amount sufficient so that all the lemon taste comes from lemons.” But she alleged that the drink didn’t contain “any appreciable amount of lemon ingredients,” but instead cheaper natural compounds that imitate lemon taste, such that, “though it may contain some lemon compounds, it lacks enough, if any, of the complementary flavor compounds in real lemons.”

While “courts in this Circuit have sustained claims where the language of a product label, in context, referred not only to a flavor but also indicated the presence of an ingredient,” they have regularly dismissed cases where a product’s label makes no “claims about the ingredients constituting the flavor.” This was the case here, where the phrase “Lemon & Lemon Zest” “merely represents that the Product is lemon flavored. The Product does not use language such as ‘made with lemon,’ ‘made with lemon zest,’ or any other similar message that would convey to a reasonable consumer that the Product includes those ingredients.” The label explicitly stated “no juice,” and the ingredients list confirmed this.

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