labels: Soft drinks, Advertising / branding
FDA hauls Coca-Cola for "misbranding" news
27 December 2008

The Food and Drug Administration, USA, is taking Coca-Cola to task for what it calls "misbranding" of Diet Coke Plus.

Federal regulators warned Coca-Cola Co. that its Diet Coke Plus product is misbranded because the beverage's label has a nutrient claim but doesn't meet criteria to make that claim.

The label also describes the soda as "Diet Coke with vitamins and minerals," according to a warning letter the Food and Drug Administration sent on December 10 to the Atlanta beverage company.

In the letter to Coca-Cola, the FDA said the marketing of Diet Coke Plus, which uses the "plus" to indicate the addition of vitamins and minerals, amounts to an illegal health claim. It said the word "plus" normally signals a food enriched with 10 per cent more of the daily food intake for a particular nutrient than is standard. The FDA said because there is no standard for nutrients in carbonated beverages, Coke can't market the beverage as "plus."

The letter says: "Your product is misbranded ... because it bears the nutrient-content claim 'plus' but does not comply with the regulations governing the use of this claim. The term 'plus' in 'Diet Coke Plus,' read in conjunction with the language 'Diet Coke with Vitamins & Minerals,' meets the definition of a nutrient-content claim because it characterizes the product's level of vitamins and minerals, which are nutrients of the type required to be in nutrition labeling."

The FDA said the term "plus" is supposed to be used only to describe nutrient labeling, and the agency said it doesn't consider it appropriate to fortify carbonated beverages with nutrients.

Coca-Cola said it believes the label complies with the FDA's policies and regulations, said Scott Williamson, a Coca-Cola North America spokesman. He said the company takes the FDA's concerns seriously, while noting that the warning doesn't involve any health or safety issues.

The agency also said the label doesn't reference the amount or fraction of nutrients in the beverage.

The FDA wants Coke to take prompt corrective action.

In a March 2007 press release announcing the product launch, the company described it as "a sparkling, calorie-free beverage with vitamins and minerals," that is "a good source of vitamins B3, B6, and B12, and the minerals zinc and magnesium." Wieden & Kennedy is Diet Coke's agency.

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FDA hauls Coca-Cola for "misbranding"