Vitamin Water Claims Dangerously Misleading Says Consumer Group

Robyn Nazar RN BSN's picture
Vitamin Water
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The popular Vitamin Water beverage is once again facing outcry about its misleading health claims. A complaint was filed to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by a consumer group on the grounds that advertising of the so-called “healthy” beverage is not only misleading, but dangerous to consumers.

Vitamin Water, whose tag line “healthy hydration for every occasion” is marketed to consumers who are looking for a health-boosting beverage. Each of their different flavor options have suggestive names such as “Defense”, “Essential”, and “Multi-V” and contain 100 percent of the daily allowance of vitamin C. Each flavor option is also fortified with other nutrients such as vitamin B, C, E, zinc, calcium, potassium, lutein, and antioxidants specific to the flavor's claim.

The problem, however, is that this “healthy” product actually contains 125 calories and 30 grams of sugar. In other words, some feel that it is no more than a glorified, uncarbonated, sugar-sweetened beverage in a bottle.

In their complaint, the National Consumer's League (NCL) cites the Vitamin Water television and print campaigns for the product which tout its ability to “support a healthy immune system” and suggest that it is an equal substitute to an influenza vaccine. According to this consumer group, these claims are false, misleading, and “constitute a public heath menace.”

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Although the beverage is, in fact, fortified with vitamins, this does not necessarily make the beverage “healthy”. There are some research reports which support that vitamin C is beneficial to the immune system, but none to suggest that prevents illnesses or is equivalent to flu vaccine. Most Americas are not actually vitamin deficient and excess vitamins beyond what your body needs may or not be absorbed. Furthermore, any potential immune-booting effects that the vitamins have should be considered null due to the high sugar content, which as been proven to weaken the body's immune response. High-sugar products are also known to contribute to diabetes, heart disease, obesity and other health problems.

The NCL consumer group is not the first to call foul on Vitamin Water's claims. Back in July of 2010 the health-advocacy group, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), served the company's owner Coca Cola with a class-action suit for violating consumer-protection laws. Citing the misleading advertising campaigns the CSPI stated, “They added vitamins to crap. And it's still crap. Consumers shouldn’t assume that the front of a label is a lie. You cannot deceive in the big print and tell the truth later.”

Also, recently in the UK Vitamin Water came under scrutiny for its use of the word “nutritious” in its advertising campaigns. The Advertising Standards Authority complained that this was misleading due to the beverage's high sugar content. Coca Cola defended their brand by saying that this was an accurate representation of the product because it is “providing substances that people need in order to be healthy”. The ruling commission disagreed and has banned the word “nutritious” from their advertising campaigns.

Despite negative press and its unhealthy contents this “healthy” beverage continues to be popular among consumers. This is evidenced by its 700 million dollars in sales last year. Coca Cola saw its potential back in 2007 and bought it from its original owners, Glaceau for 4.2 billion dollars in cash. It is now being sold in 15 markets around the world.

While consumers await the FTC's response to the complaint against the beverage giant, they should be reminded that products are not always what they claim to be. Advertising hype, although very powerful, cannot erase the plain truth that the only real healthy water is...water.

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