Molson Coors illegally touts fortification of its alcoholic drink with “antioxidant vitamin C” from “superfruit”

The Food and Drug Administration should bring enforcement proceedings against Molson Coors for illegally misleading consumers with its Vizzy Hard Seltzer advertising campaign, which highlights the alcoholic beverage’s vitamin C and antioxidant content, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Consumer Federation of America. The two consumer organizations say that, fortified or not, alcoholic drinks are poor ways to get nutrition, and that Molson Coors is in violation of FDA rules that prohibit misleading claims and strongly discourage food companies from fortifying snack foods, carbonated drinks, or alcoholic drinks with vitamins. 

In a letter to Susan Mayne, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, CSPI and CFA point out that Molson Coors makes claims that Vizzy is made “with antioxidant vitamin C from acerola superfruit,” thereby implying that it’s more healthful than hard seltzers made without it. That claim is misleading. In fact, all alcoholic drinks provide empty calories, are associated with serious health conditions, and, when consumed in excess, actually inhibit the body’s ability to take up nutrients from food, according to the groups.

Vizzy Hard Seltzer’s 12-ounce cans contain 5 percent alcohol by volume and 100 calories. One advertisement makes note of the fact that Vizzy is the “first” hard seltzer to be made with vitamin C; another ad distinguishes it from its competitors by stating “Yeah, but we’ve got the antioxidant vitamin C.” They come in flavors like Blackberry Lime, Blueberry Pomegranate, Pineapple Mango, Strawberry Kiwi and so on. Vizzy’s label indicates that each can contains 18 milligrams of vitamin C, or 20 percent of the Recommended Daily Intake of the vitamin because if its last ingredient dried acerola cherry juice. 

“You should get your vitamins from foods first, and a multivitamin or supplement as a distant second if you really need it,” said Eva Greenthal, CSPI senior science policy associate. “Alcoholic beverages are the absolute last place where you should go looking for or expect to find vitamins. The presence of vitamin C in hard seltzer is no reason to drink more than you would otherwise and doesn’t make this brand of hard seltzer less damaging to your health than any other.” 

“Alcohol consumption, particularly heavy consumption, impairs the body’s metabolism of certain vitamins and nutrients,” said Thomas Gremillion, CFA director of food policy. “Any advertising that suggests drinking an alcoholic beverage is a good way to get vitamins into the body is clearly misleading.” 

FDA’s fortification policy is spelled out, in part, in a guidance document for the food industry which poses answers to frequently asked questions. For example, it states: “Is it appropriate to add vitamins and minerals to alcoholic beverages? No. Under our fortification policy, we do not consider it appropriate to add vitamins and minerals to alcoholic beverages.” CFA and CSPI are also urging the FDA to issue regulations, not mere guidance, that formally prohibit the use of nutrient content claims on alcoholic beverages, regardless of whether the nutrients come from fortification. 

“Alcohol is never a good way to obtain nutrients. If these claims are not expressly prohibited, more manufacturers may attempt to market their alcoholic beverages as healthful sources of nutrients, misleading consumers about these drinks, which are not healthy,” CFA and CSPI wrote.