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NCL disappointed in FTC conclusion of investigation of misleading marketing claims for “vitaminwater”

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February 3, 2012

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

WASHINGTON— The National Consumers League, the nation’s oldest consumer group released a letter today from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that confirms that the agency investigated misleading advertising for “vitaminwater,” owned by Energy Brands, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola, in response to a formal complaint filed by NCL last year.

The Washington, DC-based NCL, a nonprofit watchdog, urged the FTC to halt deceptive TV and print ads suggesting that vitaminwater can replace flu shots and prevent illness.  The FTC has since informed NCL that it investigated the claims, assembling a file containing several hundred pages of materials.

In a letter dated January 30, 2012 the FTC informed NCL that it was closing its investigation on the basis that the company:

"had permanently discontinued the advertising containing claims that drinking Vitaminwater could reduce the likelihood of illness before being contacted by the FTC and that Energy Brands is revising its advertising containing claims related to eyesight.  In addition, Energy Brands has assured the staff that it will carefully review its claims and substantiation to ensure its future advertising complies with the FTC Act."

“Vitaminwater’s claims were not only untrue, they constituted a public health menace,” stated Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL. “We had hoped the FTC would have formally prohibited the claims, and required corrective advertising. However, the FTC’s letter to the makers of vitaminwater should signal the food industry that the agency has no tolerance for grossly misleading health claims in food ads.”

The complaint by NCL urged the FTC to put an end to:

• A poster ad for “vitaminwater” that stated: “flu shots are so last year” and pictured three varieties of vitaminwater under the banners “more vitamin c, more immunity . . .”

• A TV ad for “vitaminwater power-c” that depicted 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 stated “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.”

According to NCL, the statements were also deceptive because the products on which they appear are not simply made from vitamins and water, but are made with crystalline fructose or other forms of sugar, and contain 125 calories 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.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.