Agreement adds "with sweeteners" to labels, prohibits health claims in connection with the drink

On behalf of consumers, the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and two law firms filed a class action lawsuit against Coca-Cola in 2009 to prohibit claims that the drinks, which contain about 32 grams of sugar, could reduce the risk of eye disease, promote healthy joints, induce feelings of relaxation, or otherwise bring about a “healthy state of physical and mental being.”

The agreement approved yesterday by Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York bars Coca-Cola from making those health claims in connection with Vitaminwater, as well as such statements as “vitamins + water = what’s in your hand,” “vitamins + water = all you need,” and “this combination of zinc and fortifying vitamins can … keep you healthy as a horse.” The company will also prominently add the words “with sweeteners” on two places on the label where the brand’s name appears.

“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,” said CSPI litigation director Maia Kats.

The order granted yesterday also found that two objections raised to the settlement were without merit.

Besides CSPI, the class was represented by Michael Reese of Reese LLP and Deborah Weintraub of Scott & Scott LLP.

CSPI, independent of the litigation, has campaigned to reduce the prevalence of added sugars in the American diet. The American Heart Association recommends a limit of nine teaspoons of added sugars per day for men and six teaspoons per day for women. Sugar drinks promote diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, tooth decay, and other health problems.