Calorie-Burning Claim Puts Drink in AG’s Sights

HARTFORD – February 6, 2007 – Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal yesterday said his office was investigating claims by Coca-Cola and Nestle that their new drink can burn calories, saying it may amount to “voodoo nutrition.”

The investigation focuses on Enviga, a green tea drink that contains caffeine, calcium, and a green tea extract known as epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. Coke says EGCG speeds up metabolism and increases energy use, especially when combined with caffeine.

An Enviga website claims the drink burns more calories than it contains and can help drinkers maintain an ideal weight. According to a Nestle study, young people who drank three of the 12-ounce drinks a day burned an average of 106 calories.

Ray Crockett, a Coca-Cola Co. spokesman, said the joint venture stands behind the claim that the product “invigorates your metabolism to gently burn calories.”

“We’ve been clear that Enviga is not positioned as a weight-loss product, but is designed to comple ment, not replace, regular exercise, a sensible diet and other healthy choices you make throughout the day,” he said.

Blumenthal demanded by next week copies of all scientific studies, clinical trials, tests, and papers the companies have used to support the calorie-burning claim.

Unless there are credible scientific studies, claims “may be nothing more than voodoo nutrition,” Blumenthal said. “Promise of wondrous weight loss must be supported by science, not magic.”

Connecticut law requires companies to provide reliable scientific evidence to support diet product claims. If Enviga is found to be in violation, Blumenthal said, the state can take action, such as forcing Coke and Nestle to change their advertising.

“There’s nothing per se illegal about the drink,” he said. “It’s the ads and the promotions — marketing ploys that may exploit false hopes, create false expectations and thereby be misleading or even deceptive.”

A nonprofit watchdog group, Center for Science in the Public Interest, said it filed a federal lawsuit last week in New Jersey over Coke’s Enviga claims.

Last year, Connecticut settled with Pepsico’s South Beach Beverage Co., which claimed its drinks offered protection from colds and other illnesses. Under that deal, SoBe stopped making such claims and agreed to pay the state $219,000 as a civil penalty and reimbursement for legal expenses.