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Coca-Cola Sued for Vitaminwater Name and Labeling

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Photo by Rick Audet on Flickr

Photo by Rick Audet on Flickr

Last week, we discussed POM Wonderful’s lawsuit against Coca-Cola for alleged misleading labeling on its Minute Maid pomegranate blueberry juice; this week, Coca-Cola is again the defendant — but now it’s the Center for Science in Public Interest (CSPI) with the claim.

The CSPI alleges that Coca-Cola is engaging in deceptive labeling practices regarding its “glacéau vitaminwater,” a water-based drink with vitamins added. The drinks have names like “defense,” “energy,” and “revive,” and also have sugar added. Sugar is listed in the ingredients, and Coca-Cola maintains that including it there is enough to inform consumers about its presence.

Judge John Gleeson of the Eastern District of New York disagreed, however, citing Gerber’s Fruit Juice Snacks, whose image of fruit was found to be misleading because the ingredients were primarily corn syrup and sugar.

The name and label of the “vitaminwater” has “the potential to reinforce a consumer’s mistaken belief that the product is comprised of only vitamins and water,” Gleeson wrote. He also found that Coca-Cola is “making health claims about vitaminwater even though it does not meet required minimum nutritional thresholds.”

When the suit was filed in January 2009, Coca-Cola released a statement that called it “ridiculous,” “ludicrous,” and “an opportunistic PR stunt . . . about grandstanding at a time when CSPI is receiving very little attention.”

Obviously Gleeson viewed the suit quite differently as he denied Coca-Cola’s request to dismiss it, and now it will continue with depositions and discovery.

Steve Gardner, CSPI’s litigation director, has been quoted as saying,”Coca-Cola has been exploiting Americans’ desire to eat and drink more healthfully by deceiving them into thinking that vitaminwater can actually prevent disease.”

By the way, in case you’re wondering where you saw the Center for Science in Public Interest recently on the LegalZoom blog, it was in the post, Are McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys Illegal?

PR stunts or not, the CSPI seems determined to live up to its self-proclaimed status as “one of the nation’s top consumer advocates” — one case at a time.

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July 29th, 2010 at 10:48 am