Madison company challenges Vitaminwater over labeling

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MADISON- A Madison-based advertising watchdog group is trying to change the name of Vitaminwater, a popular Coca-Cola brand product.

Truth in Advertising said said the product’s name is misleading to consumers.

"What it claims to be is a healthy beverage that can help with your immune system, help with your eye health, keep you healthy," said Bonnie Patten, Executive Director of Truth in Advertising.

Patten said the product’s label is misleading, touting its vitamin content and downplaying the roughly 30 grams of sugar in every bottle. “If they wanted to be honest with us and not deceive us in the labeling, they would have to call this 'Sugarwater,’” said Patten.

Truth in Advertising is using legal avenues to try and create change, becoming involved in class-action lawsuits against Vitaminwater.

Coca-Cola, however, believes its product is fairly labeled. In a statement, Coca-Cola said, in part:

“Vitaminwater is a great-tasting beverage with essential vitamins and minerals, and all ingredients are clearly and accurately stated on the label. We respect the consuming public and believe they are fully capable of making their own decisions when all ingredients and calorie content are clearly stated on the labels. The fact is that Vitaminwater is a great product that is properly labeled and responsibly marketed.”

The majority of Vitaminwater is comprised of water and cane sugar, and vitamins account for less than half a percent of the drink. St. Francis nutritionist Sally Lerman said this is done purposely to keep people from getting sick from fat-soluble vitamins. “They want to make sure that if you drink a bunch of them, you're not going to become ill,” said Lerman. “Because vitamins, while they're good in small quantities, are not necessarily always good in larger quantities."

Lerman believes the Vitaminwater name is fair because she said the drink is, essentially, a vitamin in water with sugar. She does, however, recommend getting your vitamins from other sources.

"You really want to concentrate your diet on getting your vitamins from real food -- basically things that don't have a nutrition facts label on them, like fruits, vegetables, fresh whole grains,” recommended Lerman.

Patten said Truth in Advertising will continue fighting to change the Vitaminwater name through class-action lawsuits. None of the recent class-action lawsuits directly name Connecticut consumers, but the group is hopeful that if a name change is adopted, it will apply to consumers nationwide.