FDA releases final guidance regarding use of the term “evaporated cane juice” on food labeling.

  • As previously covered on this blog, food companies have been grappling for years with the use of the term “evaporated cane juice” on product labels.  Various lawsuits have alleged that the term violates federal and state laws, citing as support a 2009 FDA Draft Guidance that states “FDA’s view that the term ‘evaporated cane juice’ is not the common or usual name of any type of sweetener, including dried cane syrup.”  In response to repeated inquiries related to this issue, FDA promised a California court last year that the Agency would issue final guidance on this topic before the end of 2016.
  • On May 25, 2016, FDA released final guidance reaffirming the Agency’s view that sweeteners derived from sugar cane should not be declared on food labels as “evaporated cane juice.”  According to the guidance, the term 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.”  FDA advises regulated industry that the 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’).”
  • Many food industry stakeholders have long urged FDA to accept and endorse the use of the term “evaporated cane juice” based on the manufacturing process and the characterizing properties of this ingredient.  The final guidance is likely to be met with industry criticism and will not improve food companies’ position with respect to litigation surrounding this term.