Jelly beans, Coke, vitaminwater. These three items all have something legal in common. A U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York ruled against a Coca-Cola company move to dismiss the case against it for misleading health claims on bottles of its vitaminwater beverages. The suit against the beverage giant was brought by public watchdog group the Center for Science in the Public Interest as well as individual consumers in part over the company's use of the word "healthy" to describe its vitaminwater product.
According to Reuters, Judge John Gleeson found Coke's claims about the health benefits of its vitamin water products may violate the FDA's "jelly bean rule." The jelly bean rule prohibits food producers from labeling what is essentially junk food as healthy just because it has been fortified with vitamins. The rule restricts claims that use the word "healthy" to suggest that a food, because of its nutrient content, may help consumers maintain healthy dietary practices. It may be possible that vitaminwater does that, Judge Gleeson found.
The judge also noted that other components of the drink's labeling might prove confusing to consumers. "The potential for confusion is heightened by the presence of other statements in vitaminwater's labeling, such as the description of the product as a 'vitamin enhanced water beverage' and the phrases 'vitamins+water = all you need' and 'vitamins+water = what's in your hand', which have the potential to reinforce a consumer's mistaken belief that the product is comprised of only vitamins and water," the judge wrote.
"Vitaminwater is no more than non-carbonated soda, providing unnecessary added sugar and contributing to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and other diseases," said CSPI's litigation director, Steve Gardner, told UPI. "We look forward to representing all Americans whom Coke has deceived."
The Coca-Cola company contends that the ingredients, including the amount of sugar in each drink, are plainly listed on the label.