It’s been gracing food labels for years, but more recently, the term ‘evaporated cane juice’ (ECJ) has also prompted a tsunami of civil litigation against firms from Chobani to Trader Joe’s.
Plaintiffs argue that the only reason marketers use the term ‘evaporated cane juice’ on labels is to conceal the fact that they are adding sugar to their products, or imply that ECJ is more healthy or natural than plain old white ‘processed’ sugar.
The name ‘evaporated cane juice’, meanwhile, is inherently misleading, they allege, carrying the implication that manufacturers merely squeeze out the juice from sugar cane and evaporate it when in fact, ECJ makers clarify and filter the cane juice, heat it with steam and concentrate it into a syrup; seed it with sugar crystals, boil it, and put it in a centrifuge to spin out the molasses.
They also note that FDA 2009 draft guidance advises firms not to use the term ECJ because it is “false and misleading” and urges them to use the term ‘dried cane syrup’ instead.
But food manufacturers say the ‘flawed’ draft guidance has caused chaos for the industry, and that no one understands what ‘dried cane syrup’ means.
So what happens next? All eyes are now on the FDA, which said in March that it would revisit its draft guidance, but has not said whether a finalized version might differ materially from the 2009 document.
As for the lawsuits, news that the FDA is actively looking at the issue does appear to have deterred fresh ECJ-related filings - while cases already in process have either been dismissed or put on ice pending FDA action.
So watch this space. Maybe the finalized guidance could emerge in 2015??