FDA Slams Diet Coke ClaimsDec 24, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Coca-Cola Company has recently made claims that its “Diet Coke Plus” includes vitamins and minerals. Now, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a letter to Coca-Cola Company warning that these product claims are in violation of the United States policy against marketing soda and other snack foods as more nutritious, or "fortified," Reuters is reporting,
According to Reuters, manufacturers often try to increase product value by adding nutrients, but that the FDA only allows a manufacturer to make such claims when the product contains no less than 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of a vitamin or mineral. However, these claims are not applicable to soda and other products such as candy, according to FDA regulations, said Reuters.
The Wall Street Journal said Coca-Cola launched Diet Coke Plus in March 2007 as a calorie-free soft drink and "a good source of vitamins B3, B6, and B12, and the minerals zinc and magnesium," according to a firm press release. But, the FDA objected to Coca-Cola’s labeling, said the LA Times, which said the FDA “scolded” Coca-Cola for its “inappropriate nutritional claims,” and labeling describing the drink as containing vitamins and minerals.
“You should take prompt action to correct the violations," the agency said in its December 10 letter, which was made public yesterday. Reuters said it remained unclear if the FDA was looking to remove Diet Coke Plus from the American market. The FDA could take additional actions such as product seizure, levying fines, and seeking injunction.
WebMD reported that the FDA said that Coca-Cola’s Diet Coke Plus product is "misbranded." The letter says the Diet Coke Plus labeling violates FDA guidelines by using the word “plus” and stating the drink provides "vitamins and minerals." The FDA disputed those claims, saying that the drink only contains “trace amounts of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B." The FDA letter also said that it does not "consider it appropriate to fortify snack foods such as carbonated beverages." The letter gave Coca-Cola 15 days to reply with its plans for actions, said Forbes.
The executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Michael Jacobson, told Reuters that Coca-Cola blatantly ignores FDA rules in its marketing of Diet Coke Plus. Jacobson noted that claiming a product is fortified allows a company to charge more, even if consumers do not need the extra nutrients and, specifically, if those alleged nutrients are in a “less healthful drink such as soda.” Jacobson told Reuters that "Fortification is dirt cheap and allows companies to charge more… People would be better off drinking water than Diet Coke Plus."
The Wall Street Journal notes that the FDA warning comes amid an increasing trend in such so-called nutrient-enhanced beverages that include anything from energy drinks to enhanced waters. The emergence of these new products has increased FDA pressure to more closely regulate these claims.