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How transparent should menus be? CSPI sues Jamba Juice to find out

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In what could prove a test of how transparent restaurant menus need to be, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has brought a class action against Jamba Juice for allegedly making misleading claims about what’s in its smoothies.

The nutrition watchdog alleges in the federal lawsuit that Jamba’s marketing is deceptive because it suggests the chain only includes whole fruits and vegetables in its blended beverages. CSPI says the message glosses over the drink chain’s use of such other ingredients as grape- and pear-juice concentrates, sherbet and sugar.

“Jamba Juice’s advertising and marketing is aimed at giving consumers the impression that their smoothies will be mostly whole fruits and vegetables, like mango, passion fruit or kale,” said CSPI Litigation Director Maia Kats. “In reality, consumers are paying premium prices for products that are primarily made of unadvertised, less nutritious, and cheap ingredients.”

Jamba Juice declined to comment on the lawsuit or the allegations, citing a policy of not discussing active or threatened litigation.

In announcing the action, CSPI cited such examples as Jamba’s Caribbean Passion Smoothie. Menu boards list five ingredients that go into the drink: mango, strawberry, peach, orange and passion fruit.

“In fact, that smoothie appears to have no whole mango, no whole orange and no whole passion fruit,” CSPI says in the statement. “Instead of those advertised fruits, Caribbean Passion has as its first ingredient a ‘Passion Fruit-Mango Juice Blend,’ according to the company’s website.”

CSPI contends the drink also features the equivalent of 24 teaspoons of sugar.

The organization, a frequent critic of restaurant menus, brought the suit on behalf of Teri Turner, a Jamba customer in Santa Rosa, Calif., and David Lundquist, a consumer in New York City. The action alleges that both believed the beverages they were purchasing contained nothing but whole fruits and vegetables and “super ingredient” nutritional supplements, with minimal sugar added.

CSPI’s news announcement of the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, said that similar efforts have led to the reformulation of products such as Naked Juices, Plum Organics baby food and a version of Cheerios.

Jamba operates or holds the franchise rights to about 800 fast-casual restaurants throughout the United States. The publicly owned chain recently agreed to be acquired for $200 million by Focus Brands, the parent of Moe’s Southwest Grill, McAlister’s Deli and Cinnabon, among other concepts.

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