Another Lawsuit Alleges That Stevia Sweetener Is Not Natural

July 31, 2013

By Riëtte van Laack

In March 2012, in a consumer action against Jamba Juice, filed in California, plaintiffs asserted, among other things, that steviol glycosides should not be considered natural because of the “chemical processing” used to extract them. 

Earlier this month, another lawsuit concerning a natural claim for a stevia sweetener was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii. In a putative class action, Plaintiff sued Cargill, Inc. (“Cargill”) for alleged misleading marketing of Cargill’s sweetener, Truvia, as natural.

Plaintiff alleges that the stevia extract Reb-A is not natural because, although it is derived from the natural source stevia, it is allegedly “purified through a harsh chemical process” that includes washing a watery stevia extract with ethanol, methanol, and rubbing alcohol.  Citing the USDA natural policy as an example of the interpretation of the term “natural,” Plaintiff alleges that consumers “do not consider a product with an ingredient that is harshly chemically processed to be natural.”

Plaintiff further alleges that Cargill misrepresents Truvia as a stevia-derived sweetener, asserting that Reb-A (derived from stevia) comprises only 1% of Truvia.  Allegedly, the main ingredient (99%) is erythritol.  According to plaintiff, although erythritol is naturally present in fruits such as pears, Cargill’s patented manufacturing process causes the product to be synthetic. 

Plaintiff’s requested relief, individually and on behalf of the all purchasers of Truvia in the United States, and the subclass of all purchasers of Truvia in Hawaii, includes injunctive relief, corrective advertising, restitution, and disgorgement.