Coke Sued for Fraudulent Claims on Obesity-Promoting 'VitaminWater'
vitamins + water + sugar + hype = soda - bubbles
Coke markets VitaminWater as a healthful alternative to soda by labeling its several flavors with such health buzz words as "defense," "rescue," "energy," and "endurance." The company makes a wide range of dramatic claims, including that its drinks variously reduce the risk of chronic disease, reduce the risk of eye disease, promote healthy joints, and support optimal immune function.
In fact, according to CSPI nutritionists, the 33 grams of sugar in each bottle of VitaminWater do more to promote obesity, diabetes, and other health problems than the vitamins in the drinks do to perform the advertised benefits listed on the bottles.
CSPI's litigation department is serving as co-counsel in the suit, filed yesterday in United States District Court in the Northern District of
"When I bought VitaminWater, frankly I thought I was doing myself a favor health-wise," said the plaintiff,
VitaminWater's website (http://www.glaceau.com/), marketing copy, and labels claim that VitaminWater is healthy, claiming, for example, that "balance cran-grapefruit" has "bioactive components" that promote "healthy, pain-free functioning of joints, structural integrity of joints and bones" and that the nutrients in "power-c dragonfruit" "enable the body to exert physical power by contributing to the structural integrity of the musculoskeletal system."
While it is true that vitamins do play various roles in the human body, the statements on VitaminWater labels go far beyond even the loose, so-called "structure/function claims" allowed by the Food and Drug Administration and cross the line into outright fraud, according to CSPI.
Moreover, VitaminWater contains between zero and one percent juice, despite the full names of the drinks, which include "endurance peach mango" and "focus kiwi strawberry," and "xxx blueberry pomegranate acai," among others. A press release for the "xxx" drink claims its antioxidants makes the drinker "last longer" in some unspecified way; in any event, it has no blueberry, pomegranate, or acai juice, nor do the others have any cranberry, grapefruit, dragon fruit, peach, mango, kiwi, or strawberry juice.
According to documents filed in 2007 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Coke acknowledged that "obesity and other health concerns may reduce demand for some of [its] products," and that "increasing public awareness" about health experts' concerns over sugar-sweetened beverage could affect the company's profitability. That year, Coke acquired VitaminWater's parent company, Glaceau. Also in 2007, CSPI sued Coke and its partner Nestle over an artificially sweetened green-tea-based drink called Enviga. The companies claim Enviga burns more calories than it consumes, resulting in weight loss -- a claim that CSPI says is not supported by the small number of studies on the drink's ingredients.
"Coke fears, probably correctly, that they'll sell less soda as Americans become increasingly concerned with obesity, diabetes, and other conditions linked to diets too high in sugar," said CSPI litigation director
VitaminWater typically retails for about
"My advice to consumers is to get your vitamins from real food," said CSPI executive director
Since 2005, CSPI's litigation project (http://www.cspinet.org/litigation/) has, on its own or in cooperation with private law firms, negotiated settlements or voluntary changes to marketing practices with Anheuser-Busch, Airborne, Kellogg, Frito-Lay, Quaker Oats, Pinnacle Foods and others. Whatley, Drake & Kallas, LLC is a 35-lawyer firm with offices in Birmingham,
SOURCE Center for Science in the Public Interest
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