Florida’s Natural PFAS Lawsuit Disputes “Natural” Claim

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September 26, 2023

by Brian Eckert

Water, orange juice, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). One of these ingredients doesn’t belong in Florida’s Natural orange juice, say the lead plaintiffs in a Milberg class action lawsuit filed against Citrus World, Inc.

The Florida’s Natural PFAS lawsuit is the latest effort by Milberg to hold companies accountable for introducing toxic “forever chemicals” into the environment and food supply.

PFAS Chemicals and Associated Health Risks

Lawsuits over PFAS chemicals, including perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are currently one of the largest litigation stories in the country.

Chemical giants DuPont, Chemours, Corteva, and 3M have paid nearly $12 billion to settle claims that they contaminated water drinking supplies with PFAS. Some legal experts expect PFAS litigation payouts to eventually surpass the Big Tobacco settlements of the 1990s.

As knowledge about the widespread use of PFAS and its omnipresence in water, soil, and human bodies grows—one study detected PFAS in the blood of 97% of Americans—consumer products are facing greater scrutiny.

Food packaging is among the many places that PFAS can be present, and independent testing is increasingly confirming that PFAS chemicals are present in many popular brands of foods and beverages, including Prime Hydration sports drink, Bolthouse Farms fruit juice smoothies, and Nantucket Nectars juice drinks.

The EPA, which could designate PFAS as a “hazardous substance” under the Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) next year with a new proposed rule, points to peer-reviewed studies showing that PFAS exposure can lead to reproductive, immune, and developmental effects, cancer, hormonal problems, and higher cholesterol levels.

EPA recently confirmed that the levels at which negative health effects from PFAS could occur are much lower than previously understood and are near zero in some cases. That is, there is no “safe” level of PFAS exposure. Even “trace” levels of PFAS can pose risks to human health.

Testing Finds PFAS in Florida’s Natural OJ, Lawsuit Claims

Independent third-party testing determined that Florida’s Natural 100% Premium Orange Juice, No Pulp contains “material levels of numerous PFAS chemicals,” according to Milberg’s class action complaint.

The testing allegedly revealed PFOA and PFOS, as well as Perfluoro-1-butanesulfonic acid (PFBS), Perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS), Perfluoro-n-decanoic acid (PFHpA), Perfluoro-n-hexanoic acid (PFHxA), and Perfluoro-n-pentanoic acid (PFPeA).

PFOA was found in amounts more than 7 times the EPA’s current recommended exposure levels, while PFOS was present in amounts more than twice the EPA’s recommended levels. Thus, the defendant’s orange juice product “exposes hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting consumers, the majority of whom are children, to toxic synthetic chemicals at levels far beyond what the EPA deems safe,” the complaint alleges.

It is undisputable that the Product is uniformly represented across all marketing channels — including the Product’s front label, where it cannot be missed by consumers — as containing only natural ingredients. Nothing on the Product’s package or labeling indicates that the Product contains artificial or synthetic ingredients, let alone toxic man-made chemicals.

Florida’s Natural 100% Premium Florida Orange Juice, No Pulp, lists only water, pasteurized orange juice, and concentrated orange juice as ingredients. Nowhere on the product labeling is PFAS mentioned. On its website, the product is described as containing nothing but “100% pure orange juice…Squeezed from fresh oranges, grown with care. Naturally.”

These labeling and marketing representations, however, do not reflect the presence of PFAS in the orange juice, which renders the product “adulterated, misbranded, and illegal to sell under federal and state law,” the plaintiffs say.

Citing violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act, the California Unfair Competition Law, the California Unfair Advertising Law, and the Song-Beverly Act, the plaintiffs seek compensatory damages, attorneys’ fees, costs, and other relief for the following classes:

  • National Class: All persons who purchased Florida’s Natural 100% Premium Orange Juice, No Pulp within the United States for personal use and not for resale.
  • California Subclass: All persons who purchased Florida’s Natural 100% Premium Orange Juice, No Pulp within the State of California for personal use and not for resale.

Milberg’s Environmental Practice and PFAS Litigation

In addition to PFAS consumer product litigation, Milberg attorneys are also engaged in Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) PFAS lawsuits on behalf of municipalities, public and private water districts, state attorneys general, and individual injury plaintiffs.

Continuing our proud tradition of effectuating meaningful change through litigation, Milberg’s Environmental and Defective Products practice groups represent clients in mass torts, class actions, multi-district litigation, regulatory enforcement, citizen suits, and other complex cases.