As the self-appointed chronicler of Real Housewives litigation (see here and here for my previous contributions to the genre), I feel compelled to inform you of not one but two new class actions here and here alleging that the delightfully outspoken former New York Real Housewife Bethenny Frankel-one of the least odious people the Bravo franchise has ever featured-has been lying to us all about the contents of her Skinnygirl margarita mix. Yes, Bethenny fans, it turns out that the purportedly "all-natural" drinks contain an ingredient called sodium benzoate, "a synthetic (and potentially carcinogenic) preservative found in many diet sodas," according to two separate Los Angeles federal court complaints.
The suit accuses Skinnygirl and its current owner, Jim Beam, of "false, deceptive, and misleading labeling and marketing." On Wednesday, I talked to one of the lawyers in the Skinnygirl litigation, Nabil Majed Nachawati II of Fears Nachawati. "It's our belief that if you advertise something as all-natural, then every ingredient needs to be all natural. If it's not, the solution is really simple-don't advertise as all-natural." Nachawati conceded that the Food and Drug Administration does not have a standard for all-natural claims, but he's not concerned about that. Nevertheless, suits claiming Snapple's "all-natural" labeling was deceptive because the iced tea contained high fructose corn syrup were dismissed earlier this year.
The Skinnygirl scandal-in-a-bottle broke in August, when Whole Foods pulled the drink mix from shelves after learning it contains the preservative. Frankel responded on her website: "I'm a natural foods chef and health is a top priority for me and my family," she wrote. "The Skinnygirl Margarita is made with natural ingredients and its label is consistent with U.S. federal regulations.I built my brand on trust and honesty. I don't take lightly obvious attempts to put my integrity in question."
Jim Beam and Frankel put out a joint statement on the class action that says, in part, "This litigation is frivolous. We will defend our case vigorously and we are fully confident we will prevail." The company also said it intends to change the Skinnygirl margarita label to say "natural flavoring," rather than "all-natural."
(Reporting by Alison Frankel)
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