Misleading Claims Made About V8 Juice Drinks, Watchdog Group Says

Campbell Soup is faces claims that it has engaged in deceptive marketing involving V8 juice drinks, allegedly providing misleading nutritional information and violating federal law concerning several popular fruit and vegetable drink products.  

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) issued a warning letter (PDF) to the Campbell Soup Company June 12, indicating that claims made in connection with V-8 Fusion Refreshers and V-8 Splash juice are deceptive and misleading.

The letter detailed three key issues of concern, noting that if action was not taken litigation would be the next option. CSPI indicates that Campbell has misled consumers about juice content, nutritional value, fruit and vegetable content of the products.

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The center claims the products do not offer the same nutritional benefits as whole fruits and vegetables, yet Campbell advertises the products with pictures of fruits and vegetables on the bottles. This misleads consumers to believe the products are as healthy as a serving of fruits and vegetables, according to the group.

“Campbell creates erroneous impression that consuming the products is a viable alternative to getting a recommended serving of fruits and vegetables,” says Stephen Gardner, Litigation Director for CSPI, in the warning letter.

The products in question offer juice contents ranging from 5% to 25%.

V-8 Splash is described as a juice cocktail made mostly with water, artificial dyes, high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners, with only 5 to 10% juice. V-8 Fusion Refreshers is made the same way with only 20% to 25% juice.

Overall, the CSPI indicates that Campbell is encouraging consumers to drink their products to meet their recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, instead of eating fruits and vegetables.

The center suggests that this is confusing for consumers, rely on brand reputation and loyalty the company built in the market with the V-8 vegetable juice product, a product the center said was misrepresented as well.

According to CSPI, Campbell uses the brand trust to misrepresent products that are not healthy.

The letter also notes Campbell’s decision to omit the juice content percentage from the label. The company also omitted the ingredients list of the products from their website, a move CSPI says was made to intentionally deceive consumers.

CSPI Claims Campbell’s Actions Are Illegal

In the letter, Gardner says Campbell makes false statements about the sugar content of the products, breaking federal law. The company represents the products contain “no added sugar.”

Many products in the Fusion line of drinks do not contain added sugar; however, the Refreshers products, which share the same Fusion line name, do have added sugars.

The CSPI calls this “disingenuous and deceptive” marketing practices and a violation of federal law.

In addition, the center says Campbell violates FDA regulation by depicting the products as healthful in their marketing because the claims are based on added nutrients instead of nutrients naturally present in the ingredients. FDA rules ban the addition of nutrients to nutritionally void or harmful beverages.

Since the products consist of mostly water and high fructose corn syrup, CSPI says the regulation applies. Gardner describes the products as “primarily sugar water.”

In the letter, the center calls on Campbell to rectify the areas of concern. It also acknowledges if the company fails to do so, further legal action will be taken.

Actions the center may pursue include requesting an injunction prohibiting Campbell from advertising products as healthful and “misleading” consumers, or an injunction prohibiting the company from fortifying the products with vitamins. The company can also seek restitution, damages, disgorgement and attorney’s fees.

Letter Follows Supreme Court POM Ruling

The CSPI letter and potential for legal action comes on the heels of another important legal decision in the beverage industry.

Earlier this month the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that POM Wonderful could seek legal action against Coca-Cola over the use of the words “Pomegranate Blueberry” on a Minute Maid juice label.

POM said Coca-Cola used the advertising to convince consumers the product consisted of mostly pomegranate and blueberry juices. Actually, the juice contains more than 99% apple and grape juice with only 0.3 % pomegranate juice and 0.2% blueberry juice.

The Supreme Court decision may have far reaching implications for other food and beverage cases in the future, including the allegations CSPI is making against Campbell.


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