Coca-Cola: Vitaminwater lawsuit 'ridiculous, ludicrous'

by Eric Schroeder
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ATLANTA — Calling it "ridiculous and ludicrous," a spokesperson for the Coca-Cola Co. shot back at a lawsuit filed Jan. 14 in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California claiming the company’s Glaceau Vitaminwater contains deceptive and unsubstantiated claims.

The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (C.S.P.I.), said the statements made on Vitaminwater labels go far beyond the "structure/function claims" allowed by the Food and Drug Administration and "cross the line into outright fraud," according to the C.S.P.I. For example, the C.S.P.I. cited Vitaminwater web site, marketing copy and labels for Balance Cran-Grapefruit that claim the product has "bioactive components" that promote "healthy, pain-free functioning of joints, structural integrity of joints and bones."

But Diana Garza Ciarlante, a spokesperson for Coca-Cola, was staunch in her defense of Vitaminwater.

"This is a ridiculous and ludicrous lawsuit," Ms. Garza Ciarlante said. "Glaceau Vitaminwater is a great tasting, hydrating beverage with essential vitamins and water, with labels showing calorie content.

"Filing a lawsuit is a cheap, opportunistic P.R. stunt. This is not about protecting the public interest. This is about grandstanding at a time when C.S.P.I. is receiving very little attention."

Ms. Garza Ciarlante went on to say that consumers don’t need a "healthful" alternative to sodas.

"All our beverages, including sparkling and diets, can be part of a healthful diet," she said. "Furthermore, consumers today are savvy and are looking for more from their beverages than just hydration. Products like Glaceau Vitaminwater provide a great tasting choice that also helps contribute to daily needs for some essential nutrients. Not only that, consumers can readily see the Nutrition Facts Panel on every bottle of Glaceau Vitaminwater, which show what’s in our product and what’s not. The success of Glaceau Vitaminwater is due in large part to consumers looking for a product like this to help support their healthy, active and on-the-go lifestyle."

Coca-Cola bought Glaceau in June 2007 for $4.1 billion in 2007.

The lawsuit marks the second time in less than a month that Coca-Cola products have come under fire for their labeling. In late December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent a letter to Coca-Cola warning the company that its label for Diet Coke Plus is in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The product is misbranded because the product makes a nutrient content claim but does not meet the criteria to make the claim, according to the letter dated Dec. 10.

The F.D.A. requested a response to the letter within 15 days from receipt, but as of Jan. 15 the company had not issued a public response.

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