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Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. Sued

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The maker of 7Up, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Inc., faced a lawsuit in early November 2012 for allegedly touting health benefits of an antioxidant to consumers.  The company claims to use regular and diet Cherry Antioxidant, Mixed Berry Antioxidant, and Pomegranate Antioxidant varieties, but according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in California, the antioxidant claim is misleading.

The antioxidant claims give the impression that the antioxidants stem from the pictured healthful fruits.  The Food and Drug Administration regulations do not allow fortifying nutritionally worthless beverages with nutrients.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), an advocacy group for food safety and nutrition, stated the company’s advertising and packaging suggested that the soft drinks contain antioxidants from cranberries, pomegranates, blackberries, cherries, and raspberries, rather than added Vitamin E.

An antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits the chemical reaction that transfers electrons or hydrogen of other molecules. Oxidation reactions can create free radicals. Free radicals can start chain reactions in a cell to cause damage or death to the cell. Antioxidants terminate the chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates, and inhibit other oxidation reactions.

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Antioxidants help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.  Free radicals are not stable molecules associated with cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Antioxidants are used in dietary supplements. Although initial studies suggested antioxidant supplements might promote health, later clinical trials with a limited number of antioxidants detected no benefit and even suggested excess supplementation with certain putative antioxidants may result in harm.

CSPI is known for its newsletter, Nutrition Action Healthletter, with around 900,000 subscribers in the United States and Canada.  The advocacy group is founded by Michael Jacobson, Ph.D. and two other scientists.  CSPI is an organized voice on nutrition, food safety, health and environmental protection awareness. CSPI educates the public, advocates government policies inconsistent with scientific evidence on health and environmental issues, and counters the food and beverage industry’s influence on public opinion.

Other soft drink makers, such as Coca-Cola Co., encountered the antioxidant issues similar to the 7Up manufacturer. In December 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) objected to labeling by Coca-Cola Co. that described its now-discontinued Diet Coke Plus as “Diet Coke with Vitamins & Minerals.”  The FDA said it did not:  “…consider it appropriate to fortify snack foods such as carbonated beverages,” according to Reuters.

The CSPI lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. The case seeks class-action status on behalf of soft drink buyers throughout the United States, financial damages, and a stop to the alleged misleading advertising.

  • Dan

    I do question misleading claims by companies about the health of their products. However, I am sick and tired of all these companies and individuals suing each other over everything. The only real winner in many of these cases appear to be the trial lawyers who are making boatloads of money off the backs of individuals and companies in the States.

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