Whole Foods Market is the subject of a class action lawsuit over its labeling of an ingredient called “evaporated cane juice,” which, the suit alleges, is simply a false and misleading way to identify sugar.
In response to the suit, Whole Foods released an argument earlier this month insisting that the two are not synonymous, and that evaporated cane sugar is “an added sweetener derived from sugar cane.” Moreover, the company insisted that consumers would intuitively “associate the word ‘cane’ with ‘sugar cane’ and thus know it to be a sweetener.”
It’s worth noting that Whole Foods is not the only retailer to come across this exact accusation — similar lawsuits have been filed against Trader Joe’s, Blue Diamond, and Chobani. The real goal of the labeling, the suit alleges, is to disguise the fact that the grocer is adding extra sugar to certain items.
In another lawsuit over such labels, Michael DeLuca, vice president of specialty ingredients at Domino Sugar, agreed that “ECJ” is “entirely distinct from what is commonly known as refined sugar” because of its darker color, distinct taste, and smell. “Further, ECJ has nutrients and other inherent constituents that do not exist in refined sugar.”
Consumer groups, however, have countered that given that ECJ is a crystallized sugar, it does not differ from refined sugar in any significant way — meaning that evaporated cane sugar has the same number of calories as refined sugar, and is processed by the body in the same manner.