Consumer group takes Coca-Cola to court for alleged deception

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 16th January 2009

The Coca-Cola Company has been served notice of a class action lawsuit from an American consumer group and a San Fransisco customer amid accusations of “deceptive and unsubstantiated claims” on its glaceau vitaminwater line of beverages.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) argues that The Coca-Cola Company “makes a wide range of dramatic claims, including that its drinks variously reduce the risk of chronic disease, reduce the risk of eye disease, promote healthy joints, and support optimal immune function.”

The claims will be rigorously defended by the beverage giant, which has labelled the lawsuit “an opportunistic PR stunt”.

CSPI’s litigation department is serving as co-counsel in the suit, filed yesterday in the United States District Court by San Francisco resident James Koh.

“Coke fears, probably correctly, that they’ll sell less soda as Americans become increasingly concerned with obesity, diabetes, and other conditions linked to diets too high in sugar. VitaminWater is Coke’s attempt to dress up soda in a physician’s white coat,” CSPI litigation director, Steve Gardner, argued.

Coca-Cola is adamant they have not been deceptive in their claims and suggest the lawsuit is just a way for the consumer group to draw attention to themselves.

“This is a ridiculous and ludicrous lawsuit. glacéau vitaminwater is a great tasting, hydrating beverage with essential vitamins and water, with labels showing calorie content,” they advised in a statement. “Filing a lawsuit is an opportunistic PR stunt. This is not about protecting the public interest. This is about grandstanding at a time when CSPI is receiving very little attention. There is no surprise that one week before the inauguration of the U.S. President, with the flurry of activity in Washington, D.C., that CSPI has chosen today to try to bring attention to themselves.”

“We don’t need a “healthful” alternative to sodas. All our sparkling beverages, including sparkling and diets, can be part of healthful diet,” the Company stated. “Furthermore, consumers today are aware and are looking for more from their beverages than just hydration. Products like glacéau vitaminwater provide a great tasting choice for hydration that also helps contribute to daily needs for some essential nutrients.”