The company called Gomez’s claim "complete nonsense," but the law might actually rule in her favor.
Photo via Flickr user Chris Martino
In a time fraught with significant court cases and complicated legal issues testing our most essential governmental and judicial institutions, another monumental court case has emerged regarding the most serious matter of all: jelly beans.
Earlier this year, one California woman brought a case against popular bean brand Jelly Belly after she was reportedly tricked by fancy phrasing into buying candy she believed to be sugar-free. The brand's legal woes first arose when Jessica Gomez purchased the company's Sport Beans, a product targeted at athletes as a carbohydrate, electrolyte, and vitamin-rich supplement.
In the California court case, Gomez targeted the brand's label language, claiming she didn't realize the candy contained sugar, as the sweetener was listed as 'evaporated cane juice' on the package's ingredients list.
In the class action suit, alleging a violation of the state's Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Business Practices Law, and Consumer Legal Remedies Act, the plaintiff claimed the avoidance of the 's'-word on the label was a deliberate attempt by the company to deceive the same health-conscious consumers being targeted with the Sport Beans.
The plaintiff's original complaint states that "Nowhere does the defendant explain to consumers (1) that 'evaporated cane juice' is not juice and (2) that 'evaporated cane juice' by its common and usual name is sugar," Forbes reports.
"Plaintiff does not explain why an athlete—or anyone—would be surprised to find sugar in a product described as 'Jelly Beans,'" states the company's motion.
While the company called Gomez's claim "complete nonsense," in a motion to dismiss filed in April, it appears the United States Food and Drug Administration sides with the plaintiff on this particular labeling issue.
In May of 2016, the FDA adjusted their guidelines to reflect their position that using the phrase 'evaporated cane juice' in place of 'sugar' is misleading, adding that the term 'juice' shouldn't be used unless referring to that of a fruit or vegetable. While the FDA's opinion on the matter acts only as a guideline rather than law, allowing companies like Jelly Belly to continue to use the phrase, the May ruling did open the floodgates for a deluge of lawsuits over the controversially named ingredient.
Despite the FDA's position, Jelly Belly's dismissal insists that "no reasonable consumer could have been deceived by Sport Beans' labeling," adding that it is farfetched to think anyone could read the ingredient list "without also seeing the product's sugar content on its Nutrition Facts panel."
READ MORE: The Revival of America's Jelly Bean King
While Jelly Belly's defense lists a number of reasons why Gomez's case should be thrown out, their primary argument is that any cognizant adult knows that the iconic, decades-old confection (which was created by this guy) have sugar in them… like, duh.
"Plaintiff does not explain why an athlete—or anyone—would be surprised to find sugar in a product described as 'Jelly Beans,'" states the company's motion, throwing some significant shade at Gomez.
Though the fate of Gomez's not-so-sweet case is yet to be seen, perhaps the real question that needs to be answered is: Why were Canned Dog Food-, Barf-, and Booger-flavored Jelly Bellys ever brought into existence? That's a case we'd be interested in hearing.