FDA Declares “Evaporated Cane Juice” is Misleading

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a final guidance declaring use of the term “evaporated cane juice” (ECJ) on food labeling to be misleading.

“Evaporated cane juice” is a term commonly used on food labels to identify the presence of sweeteners derived from the fluid extract of sugar cane.  However, FDA’s most recent guidance will force companies to update their current labels to remove any mention of “evaporated cane juice.” Stating:

“[S]uch sweeteners should not be declared on food labels as ‘evaporated cane juice’ because that term does not accurately describe the basic nature of the food and its characterizing properties (i.e., that the ingredients are sugars or syrups) . . . . Moreover, the use of ‘juice’ in the name of a product that is essentially sugar is confusingly similar to the more common use of the term ‘juice’ – ‘the aqueous liquid expressed or extracted from one or more fruits or vegetables . . .’ (21 CFR 120.1(a)). Thus, the term ‘evaporated cane juice’ is false or misleading because it suggests that the sweetener is ‘juice’ or is made from ‘juice’ and does not reveal that its basic nature and characterizing properties are those of a sugar.”

For this reason, FDA concludes that “the term ‘evaporated cane juice’ is not the common or usual name of any type of sweetener and that this ingredient should instead be declared on food labels as ‘sugar,’ preceded by one or more truthful, non-misleading descriptors if the manufacturer so chooses  (e.g., ‘cane sugar’).”

This final guidance follows FDA’s October 2009 draft guidance concerning the use of ECJ in ingredient lists, as well as numerous consumer law suits against such companies like Chobani, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Blue Diamond  alleging that use of the “evaporated cane juice” ingredient term is misleading to consumers.

For assistance with food labeling questions, contact Ann Marie Gaitan, Esq. at amg@suarezgaitanlaw.com or at 786.440.8115.