Vitaminwater Ads 'Dangerously Misleading,' Consumer Group Says

vitamin water vitaminwaterVitaminwater's advertising and labeling claims are "dangerously misleading," a consumer group said in a formal complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission, which urged the commission to halt what it says are deceptive statements being made by its manufacturer.

The National Consumers League, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit watchdog, highlighted print and television advertising that implies vitaminwater can replace flu shots and prevent illness -- tactics the group says takes advantage of consumers' health concerns to sell a high-calorie drink."These advertising claims are not only untrue; they constitute a public health menace," Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL, said in a statement. "Stopping these vitaminwater claims, which contradict information by the Centers for Disease Control and other public health authorities, should be a top FTC priority."

Vitaminwater is manufactured by Glaceau, a subsidiary of the Coca-Cola Company. The complaint by NCL urges the FTC to put an end to:
  • A poster advertisement for "vitaminwater" that states: "flu shots are so last year" and pictures three varieties of vitaminwater under the banners "more vitamin C, more immunity..."
  • A TV commercial for "vitaminwater power-c" that depicts a woman who has so many unused sick days at work that she can take them to stay home and watch movies with her boyfriend. The ad states "One of my secrets? vitaminwater power-c. It's got vitamin C and zinc to help support a healthy immune system. So I can stay home with my boyfriend – who's also playing hooky." (read the text of the ad here)
The NCL complaint also urged the FTC to halt deceptive label statements for vitaminwater that:
According to NCL, the statements are deceptive because the drinks on which they appear are made up of not only vitamins and water, but with crystalline fructose or other forms of sugar that push the calorie count up to 125 per bottle.

"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," Greenberg stated. "The FTC should act now, during cold and flu season, to stop vitaminwater's outlandish claims."

Last July, a federal judge agreed to allow a lawsuit by The Center for Science in the Public Interest against Coca-Cola for similar vitaminwater marketing claims to proceed.

"Vitaminwater is a great tasting, hydrating beverage with essential vitamins and water and people can clearly see from the labels, which are FDA compliant, what's in every bottle," a Glaceau spokeswoman told Consumer Ally. "Vitaminwater has always had a fun, humorous and engaging personality -- and our ads reflect that."

See Consumer Ally's guide to understanding the largely unregulated area of food label claims.

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