NEW YORK CITY -- A federal judge has given the green light for Coca-Cola to face a class-action lawsuit accusing the beverage giant of misleading consumers by overstating the health benefits of its Vitaminwater drink.
The lawsuit was first filed in 2009 by health advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest and private law firms representing several consumers. A federal judge ruled in 2010 that Vitaminwater had used the word "healthy" on its labels in violation of FDA labeling rules.
The ruling last week by United States Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy clears the way for the case to go forward as a class-action suit. But the litigation would be limited to change how the products are marketed and labeled. The plaintiffs cannot sue for damages, as the suit previously intended.
CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson said, "The marketing of Vitaminwater will go down in history as one of the boldest and brashest attempts ever to affix a healthy halo to what is essentially a junk food, a noncarbonated soda."
But Coca-Cola is standing firm in defense of its Vitaminwater claims. "We are very gratified that Magistrate Judge Levy recommended denying class certification as to all monetary damages claims alleged by plaintiffs," it said in a statement. "We firmly believe the plaintiffs' claims are without merit and will ultimately be rejected. Vitaminwater is a great tasting, hydrating beverage with essential vitamins and water -- and labels clearly showing ingredients and calorie content."