British Columbia

Canada Dry planning to change labelling after 'Made from Real Ginger' lawsuits

Victor Cardoso, 38, says he's been buying the drink for himself, his wife and their two daughters on a monthly basis for about 10 years.

Canada Dry Mott's says it's planning to revise 'Made from Real Ginger' labelling in Canada

A can of Canada Dry ginger ale. The company said it planned to change its labelling in Canada and the U.S. after a number of lawsuits in both countries. (Rhianna Schmunk/CBC)

Facing at least two Canadian lawsuits and fresh off American settlements, Canada Dry says it's planning to change its "Made from Real Ginger" labelling in both countries later this year.

Canada Dry has been fighting false advertising lawsuits for years questioning how much, if any, ginger is in its soda. The company settled the American suits by agreeing to drop the slogan for good in early January — but still stood by its recipe and denied it misled customers.

The company said it only settled to "avoid" being taken back to U.S. court again and again over the same issue.

The agreement didn't affect Canada, and the company initially said it was going to keep using the claim up north —  but reversed gears on Friday, days after a B.C. father-of-two filed another new lawsuit.

What the doctor ordered

Victor Cardoso, 38, said he started buying the drink on a doctor's recommendation more than 10 years ago.

He'd been having stomach trouble and said his doctor told him to try the ginger ale, believing it was made with the real plant and might make him feel better.

Bottles of Canada Dry ginger ale are seen at the Safeway store in Wheaton, Maryland on Feb. 13, 2015. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Cardoso said he bought the drink at least once a month after that. He said his wife and two daughters drank it, too, all thinking they were getting health benefits.

He sued when he realized they might not be.

No ginger on ingredients list

The slogan on cans and bottles of Canada Dry has been "Made from Real Ginger" since 2013. Listed ingredients are high-fructose corn syrup, citric acid, preservatives and natural flavours with carbonated water.

The parent company, Keurig Dr. Pepper, based in Massachusetts and Texas, has been sued in a number of states including California, Missouri and New York over the last two years.

In one 2018 case, lawyers in New York said testing found there could be trace amounts of ginger in the drink, but nothing close enough to benefit anyone's health — or enough for someone to taste.

A 2014 ad from Canada Dry, set at a ginger farm:

Instead, the prosecutors said the ginger flavour comes from the combination of the other ingredients and "a minuscule amount of a ginger flavour extract."

More court records filed in New York claimed the company saw sales surge nine per cent in the six months after rolling out the new slogan.

On Friday, Canada Dry said its ginger ale "has and will continue to be made using real ginger extract from ginger root," but declined to say how much.

Ingredients listed on a can of Canada Dry ginger ale are carbonated water, sugar/glucose-fructose, citric acid, sodium benzoate, colour and natural flavour. (Rhianna Schmunk/CBC)

With the class-action settlements in the States, Keurig Dr. Pepper can't use the "Made from Real Ginger" ever again, and buyers who feel misled are entitled to compensation in all 50 states.

There's no cap on damages in California. The limit for the other 49 states is $11.2 million.

'There's no loophole here'

Cardoso's civil lawsuit is against Canada Dry Mott's, a Canadian division of Keurig Dr. Pepper. Another class-action lawsuit has been proposed in Quebec, going after damages of $15 million.

Mark Canofari, Cardoso's lawyer, said there's no way Canada Dry — or any company — could skirt representation rules as alleged by Cardoso's suit.

"There's no loophole here. If you say it's made with real ginger, then it needs to be made with real ginger. The law is not going to allow anything less than that," Canofari said.

Cardoso's lawsuit accuses Canada Dry of fraudulent misrepresentation, negligence and breach of contract.​

He's applied to have his suit recognized as a class-action, so any other British Columbian who bought the ginger ale with the same mindset as him would be compensated too, if he's successful.

The Canada Dry Mott's statement also said the company is aware of Cardoso's lawsuit but doesn't comment on ongoing cases.

About the Author

Rhianna Schmunk is a staff writer for CBC News. She is based in Vancouver with a focus on justice and the courts. You can reach her on Twitter @rhiannaschmunk or by email at rhianna.schmunk@cbc.ca.

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