Coke Vitaminwater best beware the FTC, says food attorney

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Coke may be about to find out whether the FTC agrees with the NCL that its Vitaminwater claims are "dangerously misleading"
Coke may be about to find out whether the FTC agrees with the NCL that its Vitaminwater claims are "dangerously misleading"

Related tags Nutrition Ftc

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is likely to aggressively pursue immunity claims being made by Coca-Cola Vitaminwater after it was called on to investigate them by the Washington DC-based National Consumers League (NCL) this week, a food law attorney has said.

In a long letter to the FTC, the NCL outlined why it believes Vitaminwater’s claims such as "flu shots are so last year" ​are “dangerously misleading”​, an enticement to action Virginia-based food attorney, Jonathan Emord, said could be very damaging for Coca-Cola and Vitaminwater.

“If in fact claims are being made that Vitaminwater is effective in preventing colds and flu, then they would appear without substantiation,” ​Emord said.

“The FTC should demand a halt to such advertising and/or correction of it in the market; if thereafter the offending ads continue, then the regulators can apply the heavy guns. Sadly, FTC will likely be aggressive at the outset, which simply adds to costs, reduces employment, and helps no one, including consumers.”

Marketing expert Jeff Hilton, the owner of the Integrated Marketing Group in Utah, agreed that the Vitaminwater marketing may not impress the regulators.

It will be a tough battle, but I do think Vitaminwater has stepped over the line. It would definitely be an FTC coup if they can make a successful challenge.”

NCL executive director, Sally Greenberg stated: “These advertising claims are not only untrue; they constitute a public health menace. Stopping these VitaminWater claims, which contradict information by the Centers for Disease Control and other public health authorities, should be a top FTC priority.”

“Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese; the last thing people need is sugar water with vitamins you could get from eating a healthy diet, or by taking a vitamin pill.”

Fun, humorous

Coke defended the campaigns, which also made other immunity claims, by pointing to their tongue-in-cheek tone and clarity and integrity of its on-product labelling.

"Vitaminwater has always had a fun, humorous and engaging personality -- and our ads reflect that,"​ Coke said.

But the humour defence has failed it in the past, most recently in the UK where just last month its ads were pulled up for the second time in 18 months by the advertising watchdog there.

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the presence of vitamins did not justify “delicious and nutritious” ​claims as each serving also contained, “the equivalent of four or five teaspoons of added sugar”.

In October, 2009, the ASA ruled against another Vitaminwater campaign that included claims like, “more muscles than brussels” ​and “keep perky when you’re feeling murky”.​ Coca-Cola said much of the advertising was “humorous and irreverent”​ but on receiving several complaints the ASA investigated and found this to be an inadequate defence.

The Australian consumer watchdog Choice also recently criticised vitamin waters​ for making misleading nutrition claims.

Responding to the Choice criticism, Coke said it had in 2010​released “a new low calorie formulation across the Glaceau Vitaminwater range”.

Back in the US, Coca-Cola attempted to have a class action lodged against Vitaminwater by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) dismissed, but the motion was denied by a federal judge in August, 2010.

Related news

Related products

show more

Are You Ready? Curcumin for the Cold Season

Are You Ready? Curcumin for the Cold Season

Content provided by Theravalues Corporation | 22-Sep-2023 | Clinical Study

Have you prepared for the season? According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the cold season starts as early as late August.

Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) - For Better Health

Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) - For Better Health

Content provided by Chemical Resources (CHERESO) | 01-Sep-2023 | White Paper

Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) is one of the few herbs with significant effects on both psychological and physiological aspects of human functioning.

Related suppliers


Disease prevention exclude foods from export to the EC

Posted by Doug Cross,

Any food, including 'near-water drinks with added minerals' that is promoted or advertised as having a medicinal property must be classed as a medicinal product (a drug), and can only be exported to the EC if they are accompanied by a medicinal marketing authorization (European Court of Justice, 2005, Warenvertreibs and Orthica)
National regulators in the EC have no authority to 'exercise discretion' in classifying such products in Member States of the EC. The same approach would be taken to such products exported from the USA, Canada, Australia etc. This also applies to fluoridated drinking water, and to any processed food manufactured using it. So an American firm using fluoridated water to wash, cook or otherwise process its products would then need to obtains a drug licence to export it to the EC.
Time to tighten up your regulation!

Report abuse

Yup Trouble

Posted by Marv,

Vitamin water is definitely "over the line". Even if they thought this was humor, the fine will NOT be funny.

Report abuse

Follow us


View more