Would the FTC Have Our Backs?

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is set to battle Coca-Cola over the company’s advertisement for Vitaminwater.

The ASA feels that the company’s use of the words “delicious and nutritious” below a picture of the drink are misleading to consumers because the product contains high levels of sugar.

Why does Coca-Cola beg to differ? Because Vitaminwater contains good-for-you micronutrients, including vitamin C at 100% of the recommended level. Also, the sugar content is well within the limits for a 100mL (standard) serving.

However, according to the ASA, most consumers drink an entire bottle (500mL). At this serving size, the total sugar consumed is equivalent to 25% of the UK’s daily sugar recommendation. Basically, the ASA is using realistic serving sizes (as opposed to the outdated standard serving sizes) to make judgments.

A few messages to take home here. First, a product that boasts its value with words may only be telling part of the story. Second, we have to wonder whether the Federal Trade Commission (FTC, the US equivalent to the ASA) would have come to the same conclusions as its counterpart across the pond. A recent federal report on the government’s action against health claims lacking scientific evidence indicates that the FTC is being more proactive about calling companies out. But, as MarketingDaily reports, it’s the FDA that needs more power:

The FDA’s lack of authority to require (as opposed to request) that companies produce their evidence supporting the scientific validity of health-related food claims has become of concern in regard to claims that relate to a food’s effects on body structure or function.

Hopefully both the FTC and the FDA can get coordinated on this issue.

About Sheila Viswanathan

Sheila Viswanathan focuses on educating individuals on how to make healthier dietary choices. She received her doctoral degree in Nutrition and Public Health from Teachers College, Columbia University and is certified as a registered dietitian.
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