CSPI et al. sue Coca-Cola et al. over Marketing of VitaminWater

By Ricardo Carvajal

The Center for Science in the Public Interest ("CSPI") and a New York firm have filed a class action lawsuit against Coca-Cola and Energy Brands, Inc. over allegedly fraudulent marketing of Glaceau VitaminWater. The complaint contends that defendants “deceptively promote VitaminWater as a healthy alternative to soft drinks,” notwithstanding the fact that “the amount of sugar in a bottle of VitaminWater is roughly equal to a can of soda.” The complaint does not suggest that defendants failed to disclose the amount of sugar present in the product as required by FDA regulations. But in plaintiffs’ view, “[r]easonable consumers should not be forced to look beyond the misleading representations on VitaminWater labels and in other marketing, advertising and promotional materials to discover the truth from the ingredients listed in small print on the back of the bottle.” As evidence that Coca-Cola knows that VitaminWater is not a healthy alternative to soda, the complaint cites statements in the Form 10-K that Coca-Cola filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for 2007, which acknowledge that “obesity and other health concerns” could affect the company’s profitability.