A California woman is alleging that KeVita is falsely marketing its Kombucha products by claiming the beverages contain live probiotics even though the product is pasteurized before sale. According to the Kombucha false advertising lawsuit, the pasteurization process effectively kills the products beneficial bacteria.
The lead plaintiff, Emma Brenner, alleges that KeVita and Pepsico are attempting to cash in on the recent increase in public awareness that “not all bacteria is evil.”
According to the class action lawsuit, “kombucha is generally derived from a sugar-sweetened tea (black or green) that has been mixed with yeast and bacteria and then given time to ferment…The result is an effervescent, tart, and slightly sweet beverage.”
The Kombucha false advertising lawsuit states, that “[d]ue to the fermentation process involved in creating kombucha, the resultant beverage contains a large number of healthy bacteria known as probiotics. These bacteria line your digestive tracts and have been touted for their purported ability to increase general health and wellness and to support the immune system, as they absorb nutrients and fight infection and illness.”
KeVita kombucha was originally developed by Chakra Earthsong Levy. The beverage was sold in eleven different flavors and was initially a cold-pressed, non-pasteurized product that required constant refrigeration. The Kombucha false advertising lawsuit alleges that in 2011 KeVita continued to assert the product contained live probiotic cultures even though pasteurization was added to the production process.
Brenner alleges that KeVita goes to great lengths to hide from consumers the fact that their kombucha is pasteurized.
The Kombucha false advertising lawsuit states that KeVita attempts to dupe consumers by selling the product in the refrigerated section of the store alongside competing non-pasteurized kombucha products, even though KeVita kombucha is actually transported to stores in non-refrigerated trucks.
Additionally, Brenner claims, that the beverage is falsely advertised as “handcrafted” to trick consumers into thinking that KeVita has maintained its small-batch roots.
The Kombucha false advertising lawsuit also asserts that “such ‘pasteurized kombucha’ is perhaps more aptly titled ‘kombucha flavored tea’ because the benefits of healthy bacteria have been lost during that process.” The lawsuit notes that consumers have no way of knowing at the point of sale that KeVita kombucha is pasteurized.
The plaintiff alleges that she purchased approximately $60.00 worth of KeVita kombucha based on the alleged false advertising and asked her family to purchase 8 to 10 bottles more. She says she would not have purchased the drink or recommended it if she had known it had been pasteurized. Brenner claims she did not receive a true kombucha beverage, but a mimic and imitation.
According to BevNet, “Legal definitions for kombucha have long been murky. Because kombucha frequently rises above 0.5 percent alcohol content during fermentation, most kombucha on the market is regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). On its website, TTB defines kombucha as a fermented beverage made from tea and sugar combined with yeast and bacteria, but does not include guidelines for pasteurization or final probiotic content.”
BevNet included a statement from Vermont-based kombucha maker Aqua ViTea, which said the lawsuit raised important questions about the definition of kombucha.
Aqua ViTea founder Jeff Weaber told BevNet: “This suit, the third in recent years against prominent producers, highlights the confusion in the Kombucha market as imitations and watered-down products continue lining the shelves and consumers receive false information about the contents of these beverages.”
BevNet said the statement was presented as a “Pledge of Authenticity,” and specifically noted that Aqua ViTea does not add probiotics after the brewing process nor pasteurize its kombucha.
The plaintiff seeks to represent a nationwide class of consumers who purchased KeVita kombucha after Oct. 4, 2013. Brenner is seeking an end to the false advertising as well as a disgorgement of all profits received through deceptive marketing. The plaintiff is also seeking damages for herself and class members who purchased KeVita kombucha under the alleged false pretenses.
The Kombucha False Advertising Lawsuit is Emma Brenner v. KeVita Inc. and Pepsico, Inc., in the Superior Court for the State of California, County of Ventura.
The plaintiff in the case is being represented by California law firm Bradley Grombacher, LLP.
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