Coca-Cola seems destined to be heading to trial over claims that it fraudulently markets “vitaminwater” as a healthy alternative to soda. A federal magistrate has recommended that the lawsuit, which was first filed in January 2009, may proceed as a class action.
The suit was filed by the Consumer advocacy group the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) on behalf of consumers in New York and California, alleging deceptive labeling and marketing for the soft drink, which used buzz words like “rescue” and “endurance” on labels and included claims that the drink could reduce risk for eye disease, promote healthy joints and support “optimal immune function” and deliver other benefits.
Vitaminwater is sold in flavors like dragonfruit, kiwi-strawberry, acai-blueberry-pomegranate, etc., but there are negligible amounts of juice in vitaminwater, typically less than half of a percent. What a 20-ounce bottle of non-diet vitaminwater does have is about eight teaspoons of sugar—and 120 calories.
Coca-Cola spokeswoman Lindsey Raivich told Reuters that she believes the plaintiffs’ claims in general “are without merit and will ultimately be rejected.”
“The marketing of vitaminwater will go down in history as one of the boldest and brashest attempts ever to affix a healthy halo to what is essentially a junk food, a non-carbonated soda. Vitaminwater, like Coca-Cola itself, promotes weight gain, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cannot deliver on any of the dishonest claims it has made over the years,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director for the CSPI.