California Woman Sues Jelly Belly Over Sugar-Packed Jelly Bean

Jelly beans are candy, and most candy contains sugar, lest we all forget. (Photo: Jason Stitt via Getty Images)
Jelly beans are candy, and most candy contains sugar, lest we all forget. (Photo: Jason Stitt via Getty Images)

A California woman claims that the candy company Jelly Belly tricked her into buying its Sport Beans, a candy that doubles as a diet supplement to “fuel” the body and help burn fat, which had more sugar than she thought.

Jessica Gomez, of San Bernardino County, filed a class-action lawsuit against the jelly bean company in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in February. She claims that the company attempted to mask how much sugar was in its Sport Beans Energizing Jelly Beans by labeling sugar as “evaporated cane juice” on the list of ingredients, Forbes magazine reported.

“The term ‘evaporated cane juice’ 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,” an attorney representing Gomez wrote in a letter to the company.

The lawsuit also alleges that Jelly Belly misleads its consumers by claiming the Sport Bean contains carbohydrates, electrolytes and vitamins as a way of advertising the product for athletes, according to court newswire Legal News Line.

Gomez accuses the company of fraud, negligent misrepresentation and product liability.

Jelly Belly advertises its Sport Bean on its website with images of athletes. (Photo: Jelly Belly)
Jelly Belly advertises its Sport Bean on its website with images of athletes. (Photo: Jelly Belly)

The nutritional information on the Sport Beans’ packaging says that one serving size of the product (28 grams) contains 17 grams of sugar and lists “evaporated cane juice” as the first ingredient for each flavor.

However, the Sport Beans website lists “cane sugar” on its ingredient list and says that one serving contains 19 grams of sugar.

Jelly Belly's Sport Beans are advertised as a product that gives athletes "quick energy." (Photo: Jelly Belly)
Jelly Belly's Sport Beans are advertised as a product that gives athletes "quick energy." (Photo: Jelly Belly)

In an April motion to dismiss the case, attorneys for Jelly Belly said, “This is nonsense,” according to the San Francisco Gate.

“No reasonable consumer could have been deceived by Sports Beans’ labeling,” the motion read. “Gomez could not have seen ‘evaporated cane juice’ without also seeing the product’s sugar content on its Nutrition Facts panel.”

While it may seem shortsighted to assume that a jelly bean does not contain sugar, Gomez’s lawsuit does point to a larger issue on food labels.

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, said in a 2014 blog post that “evaporated cane juice is the food industry’s latest attempt to convince you that ... it is natural and healthy, better for you than table sugar and much better for you than high fructose corn syrup.”

And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seems to agree.

Last year, the FDA announced that labeling sweeteners derived from sugar cane as “evaporated cane juice” is misleading and encouraged companies to relabel the ingredient as “sugar.”

The FDA said in a 2016 press release that the term is misleading because “it suggests that the sweetener is fruit or vegetable juice or is made from fruit or vegetable juice, and does not reveal that the ingredient’s basic nature and characterizing properties are those of a sugar.”

Gomez’s attorneys and representatives of Jelly Belly did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment by the time of publication.

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Breakfast

1 pack of <a href="http://www.quakeroats.com/products/hot-cereals/instant-oatmeal/maple-and-brown-sugar.aspx" target="_blank">maple and brown sugar instant oatmeal</a>: 12 grams <br /><br />You’ve heard that instant oatmeal can be high in sugar (and with “brown sugar” in the name, you know that there’s at least some sweet stuff in there), but this breakfast has the same amount of sugar you’d get from <a href="https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/5667?manu=&fgcd=" target="_blank">half of a bakery-bought brownie</a>. Food for thought.
1 pack of maple and brown sugar instant oatmeal: 12 grams

You’ve heard that instant oatmeal can be high in sugar (and with “brown sugar” in the name, you know that there’s at least some sweet stuff in there), but this breakfast has the same amount of sugar you’d get from half of a bakery-bought brownie. Food for thought.

Lunch

A sandwich made with... <br /><br />- <a href="http://www.pepperidgefarm.com/ProductDetail.aspx?catID=750&prdID=120269" target="_blank">Two slices of whole wheat bread</a>: 6 grams <br /> - Two ounces of <a href="http://boarshead.com/products/ham/101-branded-deluxe-ham-shattuck" target="_blank">deli ham</a> or <a href="http://boarshead.com/products/turkey/958-honey-smoked-turkey-breast-skinless" target="_blank">honey smoked turkey</a>: 2 grams <br />Lunch total: 8 grams <br /><br />Even whole wheat bread can contain more sugar than you think, so be sure to read the nutrition facts before you put a loaf in your cart. As for the sandwich meat, anything honey smoked or honey roasted is best avoided—choose non-sweet roasted varieties instead to save at least a gram or two of sugar. If plain oven roasted ham or turkey doesn’t do it for you, try varieties packed with herbs and spices (like <a href="http://boarshead.com/products/ham/173-rosemary-sundried-tomato-ham" target="_blank">rosemary ham</a> or <a href="http://boarshead.com/products/turkey/276-cracked-pepper-mill-smoked-turkey-breast" target="_blank">cracked pepper turkey</a>) for flavor with less sugar.
A sandwich made with...

- Two slices of whole wheat bread: 6 grams
- Two ounces of deli ham or honey smoked turkey: 2 grams
Lunch total: 8 grams

Even whole wheat bread can contain more sugar than you think, so be sure to read the nutrition facts before you put a loaf in your cart. As for the sandwich meat, anything honey smoked or honey roasted is best avoided—choose non-sweet roasted varieties instead to save at least a gram or two of sugar. If plain oven roasted ham or turkey doesn’t do it for you, try varieties packed with herbs and spices (like rosemary ham or cracked pepper turkey) for flavor with less sugar.

Snack

A smoothie made with <a href="https://silk.com/products/vanilla-almondmilk" target="_blank">one cup of vanilla almond milk</a>: 16 grams. <br /><br />All those grams disappear if you choose an <a href="https://silk.com/products/unsweetened-vanilla-almondmilk" target="_blank">unsweetened</a> version instead.
A smoothie made with one cup of vanilla almond milk: 16 grams.

All those grams disappear if you choose an unsweetened version instead.

Dinner

Pasta topped with <a href="https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/19434?manu=&fgcd=&ds=" target="_blank">1/2 cup of jarred tomato sauce</a>: 8 grams. <br /><br />Pasta sauce is one of those sneaky sugar sources we often talk about. Not all brands are high in the sweet stuff though, so check the label before you put it in your shopping cart. Or better yet, make your own.
Pasta topped with 1/2 cup of jarred tomato sauce: 8 grams.

Pasta sauce is one of those sneaky sugar sources we often talk about. Not all brands are high in the sweet stuff though, so check the label before you put it in your shopping cart. Or better yet, make your own.

Dessert

One <a href="http://www.snackworks.com/products/product-detail.aspx?product=4400003219" target="_blank">chocolate chip cookie</a>: 5.5 grams. <br /><br />That’s just one cookie, and a relatively small one (about 2 inches across) at that! A cookie of our preferred size has more like 16.5 grams of sugar. Whoops.<br /><br /><strong>TOTAL: 49.5 grams of added sugar</strong>
One chocolate chip cookie: 5.5 grams.

That’s just one cookie, and a relatively small one (about 2 inches across) at that! A cookie of our preferred size has more like 16.5 grams of sugar. Whoops.

TOTAL: 49.5 grams of added sugar

Breakfast

Steel cut oatmeal sprinkled with 1 ½ teaspoons loosely packed brown sugar: 6.3 grams. <br /><br />It’s tempting to pack down your brown sugar, but you’ll end up consuming much more, and you’re only fooling yourself.
Steel cut oatmeal sprinkled with 1 ½ teaspoons loosely packed brown sugar: 6.3 grams.

It’s tempting to pack down your brown sugar, but you’ll end up consuming much more, and you’re only fooling yourself.

Lunch

Salad topped with <a href="https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/665?manu=&fgcd=" target="_blank">2 tablespoons of Italian dressing</a>: 3.16 grams. <br /><br />Using Italian dressing instead of higher sugar options like <a href="https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/645?manu=&fgcd=" target="_blank">Russian dressing</a> (7 grams per 2 tablespoons), <a href="https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/645?manu=&fgcd=" target="_blank">French dressing</a> (5.1 grams per 2 tablespoons), and <a href="http://www.kraftrecipes.com/products/kraft-honey-mustard-dressing-1044.aspx" target="_blank">honey mustard</a> (7 grams per 2 tablespoons), is a smart way to cut sugar without feeling deprived.
Salad topped with 2 tablespoons of Italian dressing: 3.16 grams.

Using Italian dressing instead of higher sugar options like Russian dressing (7 grams per 2 tablespoons), French dressing (5.1 grams per 2 tablespoons), and honey mustard (7 grams per 2 tablespoons), is a smart way to cut sugar without feeling deprived.

Snack

One container of plain, <a href="http://www.chobani.com/products/plain#plain-whole-milk" target="_blank">full fat Greek yogurt</a> (4 grams of sugar) with 1/4 cup store bought <a href="http://www.kindsnacks.com/store/types/healthy-grains-clusters/oats-honey-clusters-with-toasted-coconut.html" target="_blank">granola</a> mixed in (2 grams of sugar): 6 grams. <br /><br />Non-flavored yogurts tend to be lower in added sugar, as do full fat varieties (sugar can be added to low-fat versions to pump up the flavor). Granola can also be a sugar bomb, so be mindful of your portions.
One container of plain, full fat Greek yogurt (4 grams of sugar) with 1/4 cup store bought granola mixed in (2 grams of sugar): 6 grams.

Non-flavored yogurts tend to be lower in added sugar, as do full fat varieties (sugar can be added to low-fat versions to pump up the flavor). Granola can also be a sugar bomb, so be mindful of your portions.

Dinner

Pasta topped with 1/3 cup <a href="https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/19434?manu=&fgcd=&ds=" target="_blank">jarred pasta sauce </a>: 5.3 grams. <br /><br />If you don’t have homemade sauce (we get it, making pasta sauce is a whole lot less convenient than opening a jar), try to cut back on your portion instead.
Pasta topped with 1/3 cup jarred pasta sauce : 5.3 grams.

If you don’t have homemade sauce (we get it, making pasta sauce is a whole lot less convenient than opening a jar), try to cut back on your portion instead.

Dessert

Fresh fruit with homemade whipped cream, made with 1 teaspoon of sugar: 4.2 grams. <br /><br />Raspberries and blackberries are especially delicious here, plus they’re packed with antioxidants, which makes the whipped cream much easier to justify. <br /><br /><strong>TOTAL: 24.96 grams of added sugar</strong>
Fresh fruit with homemade whipped cream, made with 1 teaspoon of sugar: 4.2 grams.

Raspberries and blackberries are especially delicious here, plus they’re packed with antioxidants, which makes the whipped cream much easier to justify.

TOTAL: 24.96 grams of added sugar

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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