Dr Pepper Snapple Group says it ‘stands by’ immune support claims made on packaging for its Mott’s for Tots beverage brand, after a US-wide class action was launched against it this week.
Californian citizen Paul Riva and others allege that they bought Mott’s for Tots Immune Support Fruit Punch and are claiming monetary damages ($5m+ exclusive of interest and costs) from the company, because of what they claim is a “deceptively labeled product”.
But Chris Barnes, corporate communications director, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (DPS) told BeverageDaily.com: “We’re not going to comment on pending litigation other than to say that we stand by the claims made on our packaging.”
‘Preying on consumers’ misconceptions’
The January 22 filing – through the US District Court, Southern District of California – claims that DPS, “sought to capitalize on parents’ desire to offer their children a healthier juice alternative that allegedly supported the immune system,” via a premium-priced product.
“The purpose of this action is to enjoin the defendant from preying on consumers’ misconceptions regarding the ability of vitamins A, C & E to support the immune system and recover the ill-gotten gains that the defendant received as a result of fraudulent conduct,” the plaintiffs state.
DPS added water and “small amounts of nutrients” to its pre-existing Mott’s for Tots product – Mott’s is the US’s leading apple sauce and apple juice producer – and marketed the resulting drink as providing certain health benefits beyond comparable products, the filing states.
“By its very name, ‘Mott’s for Tots Immune Support Fruit Punch’ claims a connection to the health benefit of immunity,” the plaintiffs state.
“The label on the front of the most recent package confirms that connection by stating that ‘Vitamins A, C and E help support a healthy immune system.”
But promises that the products supports a child’s healthy immune system were “false and misleading”, according to the plaintiffs.
“In fact, the Immune Support Fruit Punch provides vitamins in a form not scientifically shown to support the immune system. Scientific evidence specifically controverts the defendant’s promise,” they state.
‘Just a fortified snack food…’
Linking vitamins A, C and E to immune system support was not backed by scientific research, the plaintiffs insist, citing a 2010 Harvard Medical School Report on the human immune system.
“The immune system is complex…for now, there are no scientifically proven direct links between diet or lifestyle and enhanced immune function,” this states.
Riva and co-claimants also allege that the vitamin-immunity claim violates the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) fortification policy, “which…does not allow such claims when the only source of the claimed nutrients is supplements”.
Although the front label portrayed the punch as healthy, it was essentially a fortified snack food, and thus the product labeling was at least misleading, if not false and deceptive, the plaintiffs claim.