July 16, 2018

CSPI Files Objection to Vitaminwater Lawsuit Settlement

An agreement to settle a class action lawsuit against Coca-Cola over its marketing of Vitaminwater would not stop deceptive marketing of the products or give consumers any relief, according to an objection filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. CSPI sued Coca-Cola in a California federal court in 2009 citing deceptive and unsubstantiated claims marketing Vitaminwater as being healthier than soda.

GavelsCoca-Cola has used words such as “defense”, “rescue”, “energy”, and “endurance” to describe the product. Labels on the product also make claims stating that the products promote healthy joints, reduce the risk of eye disease, and other health benefits. The product contains no more than 1% juice, but references blueberry, strawberry, kiwi, peach, mango, and other fruits on the label. In fact, Vitaminwater “focus kiwi-strawberry” has no kiwi juice or strawberry juice. CSPI also states that the name “Vitaminwater” is deceptive, because it obscures the drink’s sugar content.

A federal judge dismissed Coca-Cola’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit in 2010, and wrote that the names of the beverages and other label statements, “have the potential to reinforce a consumer’s mistaken belief that the product is comprised of only vitamins and water.” Coca-Cola responded by arguing that “no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking Vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.”

The agreement proposes a million dollar payment from Coca-Cola to lawyers, but only forbids Coca-Cola from making statements about the product that it had already stopped using. The agreement does not prevent Vitaminwater’s labels from using terms such as “focus” and “energy”, and the company can still name fruits on the label.

CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner said, “it’s no wonder Coca-Cola is eager to enter into this particular settlement agreement. The agreement ‘prevents’ Vitaminwater labels from using a handful of statements that the company had long abandoned anyway. Coke is still trying to dress up sugar water as a health food, yet Vitaminwater does a lot of harm and zero good.”

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