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CSPI threatens lawsuit against Coca-Cola for "fraudulent" weight loss claims over Enviga beverage

Monday, December 11, 2006 by: Jerome Douglas
Tags: EGCG, Coca-cola, the CSPI

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(NewsTarget) The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has decided to serve notice on Coca-Cola and Nestlé -- the companies behind the beverage Enviga -- stating that both companies are marketing the drink using calorie-burning and weight loss claims that are fraudulent.

The CSPI group -- based in Washington in the U.S. -- is watchdog group that has taken legal action against companies such as KFC and PepsiCo over labeling and health issues in the past. This new lawsuit with Coca-Cola and Nestlé coincides with this week's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hearing on how to regulate labeling and health claims for foods and beverages.

According to Euromonitor International, the U.S. packaged functional/fortified foods market was worth $6.3 billion retail dollars in 2005 and is expected to grow to $7.6 billion by 2010. The category that Enviga is in -- which is not a defined category according to the FDA -- has grown rapidly in recent years, and at the same time, disagreements over what claims companies are allowed to make have been a constant occurrence .

The FDA used the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)'s definition of functional foods as: "foods and food components that provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition" -- and Enviga now falls into that category. In addition to Enviga, all foods that are defined as conventional, fortified, enriched and enhanced foods now fall under the "functional foods" category.

Foods have increasingly started bearing claims for health benefits, and in turn, they have become more and more like dietary supplements in terms of the territory the claims make. This current FDA hearing could open up the possibility for tighter regulations on foods and their labeling details, which have been sought after and even demanded by groups like the CSPI.

The Enviga product is a carbonated green tea beverage that claims to burn more calories than it provides, and contains the active ingredient epigallocatechin gallate -- EGCG -- an antioxidant that occurs in green tea. A Coca-Cola corporate press release suggested that drinking three cans of Enviga would burn between 60 and 100 calories, which the CSPI says is fraudulent.

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