A federal judge recently approved a settlement of a class-action lawsuit that challenged the advertising and marketing of Coca-Cola’s Glaceau Vitaminwater line of beverages.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit advocacy group in Washington, sued Coca-Cola in 2009 to prohibit claims that the sugary drinks could reduce the risk of eye disease, foster healthy joints, bring feelings of relaxation or cause a “healthy state of physical and mental being," according to CSPI in an April 8 news release.
Under the settlement, Coca-Cola is barred from making the above health claims as well as certain statements, such as “vitamins + water = all you need," and “this combination of zinc and fortifying vitamins can … keep you healthy as a horse," CSPI noted.
The complaint alleged Coca-Cola and Energy Brands Inc. (d/b/a Glaceau, a wholly owned subsidiary of Coca-Cola) falsely conveyed “Vitaminwater is not a sugary soft drink and that drinking it provides a significant source of dietary supplements." A 20-ounce bottle of Vitaminwater contains 32 grams of sugar, compared to 39 grams of sugar for a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola Classic, according to the 2009 lawsuit.
Coca-Cola will add the words “with sweeteners" on the label where the brand’s name appears, according to CSPI. The settlement agreement specifies the words will appear next to the name “vitaminwater" and below the product name and flavor.
“We are pleased to reach an amicable resolution of this case," a spokesperson for Atlanta-based Coca-Cola said in an emailed statement. “Although we remain confident in our legal position, it simply made no sense to continue this costly legal battle."
On April 7, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy in New York gave final approval to the class-action settlement, which covers California and New York residents who purchased Vitaminwater over a period of several years. In his order, Levy overruled two objections to the agreement.
“We’re pleased to have a resolution that improves the labeling and marketing of Vitaminwater and will help consumers recognize that the drink contains eight teaspoons of sugar," CSPI litigation director Maia Kats said in a written statement.
The plaintiffs’ class was represented by CSPI, Michael Reese of Reese LLP and Deborah Weintraub of Scott & Scott LLP.