Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPSG) is pulling its line of 7UP Antioxidant sodas, the company announced last Thursday, shortly after being hit with a lawsuit alleging that the drinks were misleading to consumers. However, DPSG stated that its decision was based on longstanding plan to reformulate the drinks and is not related to the lawsuit.
Filed by advocacy group The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the lawsuit accuses DPSG of “engaging in a widespread marketing and advertising campaign to mislead consumers about the nutritional qualities, health qualities, and ingredients” of the line, which feature various images of berries on its labels, but do not contain any fruit or juice. The antioxidant benefits in the soda come from added vitamin E, and the drinks are labeled as not containing any juice.
“Specifically, [DPSG] conveyed the message that the products were healthful, natural, and antioxidant-rich beverages that derived their antioxidant content from real cherries or real berries,” the lawsuit stated.
The lawsuit also noted that DPSG’s fortification of 7UP Antioxidant sodas with chemical additives is in “direct violation” of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Fortification Policy.
“The FDA ‘does not encourage indiscriminate addition of nutrients to foods, nor does it consider it appropriate to fortify … snack foods such as … carbonated beverages,’” CSPI said the in lawsuit, quoting a 2008 warning letter that the FDA sent The Coca-Cola Co. about nutritional claims that the company made about its Diet Coke Plus soda.
However, DPSG quickly issued a statement saying that it had decided to take the drinks off the market two years ago with the intention to re-label and reformulate the line “to be consistent with the formulation and appearance of other 7UP products.” DPSG said that company had discussions with CSPI about the beverage line earlier this year, and told the group that the newly formulated drinks would be on shelves by February 2013. Nevertheless, CSPI filed the lawsuit and DPSG responded with a statement about its plan of action.
“This is another attempt by the food police at CSPI to mislead consumers about soft drinks,” DPSG said in the statement. “7UP Cherry is a cherry flavored soda that does not contain juice … and it says so right on the label. When CSPI first contacted us in June, we told them that in 2011 we decided to re-label and reformulate 7UP Cherry. However, [CSPI] refused to hear the truth and instead ran to the overburdened courthouses with their latest publicity-seeking lawsuit.”