January 15, 2009

Coke sued for VitaminWater health claims

The Coca-Cola Co. has been served notice of a class-action lawsuit filed over their claims for its VitaminWater beverages, a U.S. non-profit group said.

Officials at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington said Coke markets VitaminWater as a healthful alternative to soda and makes a wide range of 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.

While vitamins do play various roles in the human body, the statements on VitaminWater labels go far beyond the structure/function claims allowed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and cross the line into outright fraud, a statement by the CSPI said.

CSPI nutritionists said: 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.

For example, VitaminWater contains between zero and 1 percent juice despite the names of the drinks, which include endurance peach mango and focus kiwi strawberry, and blueberry pomegranate acai.

CSPI's litigation department is serving as co-counsel in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California. Other law firms involved in the case are Reese Richman LLP and Whatley Drake & Kallas, LLC.