7 Misleading Beverage Labels Slideshow
The validity of the claim "100% orange juice" recently came under attack after a few reports revealed some interesting facts about the process of how it's made. Apparently, during processing, commercial orange juice is "deaerated" so that it won't spoil when it's stored. Trouble is, the process of removing the oxygen also removes a lot of the characteristic natural orange juice flavor. So how does it end up tasting like orange juice in the end? Credit that to brand-trademarked flavor packs.
What's in a name? In the case of popular drink Vitaminwater, more than you might assume, actually. Certainly more than just vitamins and water, at least. It seems that a 20-ounce bottle contains 33 grams of sugar and 125 calories. Not exactly what you would expect from a healthy-sounding drink with phrases like "vitamin + water = what's in your hand" on the label. The beverage came under fire in 2009 when food-health advocacy group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), filed a class action suit against Coca-Cola, the brand's owner, claiming that it violated consumer-protection laws.
"All natural" — sounds healthy, right? It's easy to understand why you might make that assumption. However, as it turns out, the FDA has no formal rules about what constitutes something as being "all natural." The unfortunate loophole is what allowed products like Snapple to label their teas and juices as "all natural" despite having been made with citric acid and high fructose corn syrup (although in 2009 the company started using sugar in its iced teas instead). The drink was even faced a consumer lawsuit over the issue but the case was rejected earlier this year. Still, the takeaway remains the same: Don't accept anything labeled as "all natural" at face value.
In recent years, Nestlé's Juicy Juice drinks have received warning letters from the F.D.A. regarding how the labels imply that they are made from a single juice as opposed to a flavored blend of juices. Perhaps more concerning though, are versions of their drinks (which are marketed to children) that feature claims like "helps support brain function" and "helps support immunity" on the label. It seems that such claims, called structure/function claims, require no FDA pre-certification.
Coconut water — the trendy health drink du jour — recently suffered a bit of a blow after product testing company ConsumerLab.com released results on three popular commercial brands of the drink. They tested O.N.E. Coconut Water, VitaCoco, and Zico Natural Pure Premium Coconut Water, finding that only the later offered the same amount of electrolytes as a traditional sports drink. The other two failed to deliver the advertised amounts of electrolytes — troubling since the drink is essentially marketed as a natural sports drink alternative.
In recent years, both the Federal Trade Commission and the F.D.A. took issue with POM Wonderful's allegedly misleading claims, filing a complaint and sending warnings. Specifically, the FTC attacked the drink's claims that it has "Super Health Powers" and that it "Promotes Healthy Blood Vessels." The F.D.A.'s warning stemmed from the fact that the drink was promoted for condition that would make the product have to be considered a drug.