Watchdog Group Sues Coke, Nestlé For Bogus "Enviga" Claims
Green Tea-Flavored Diet Soda Won't Help You Lose Weight, Despite Claims
of "Negative Calories"
WASHINGTON—The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest
filed suit today against Coca-Cola and Nestlé for making fraudulent
claims in marketing and labeling for Enviga, a new artificially sweetened
green tea soft drink. Labeled “the calorie burner” on cans, Enviga
is marketed as a weight-loss aid, with claims that it has “negative
calories” and that it can “keep those extra calories from building
up.” Enviga’s web site also says the drink is “much smarter than following
fads, quick fixes, and crash diets.” But according to CSPI scientists
who reviewed the studies cited by Coke and Nestlé, Enviga is just
a highly caffeinated and over-priced diet soda, and is exactly the
kind of faddy, phony diet aid it claims not to be.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, part of the
region in which the beverage is being introduced. In December, CSPI
served formal notification on Coke and Nestlé (and their partnership,
Beverage Partners Worldwide) that they would be sued if they continued
to use the unsubstantiated calorie-burning and weight-loss claims
on Enviga labels and ads, but the company indicated publicly and privately
that it had no plans to change the claims.
Enviga consists of carbonated water, calcium, concentrated green tea
extract, various “natural flavors,” and ingredients typically found
in diet soda, such as caffeine (three diet colas’ worth), phosphoric
acid, and the artificial sweeteners aspartame and acesulfame potassium.
The company says its green tea extracts are high in an antioxidant
called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG.
Many of Enviga’s claims are based on a 72-hour Nestlé-funded study
of 31 people who were given a drink containing amounts of EGCG and
caffeine equivalent to three cans of Enviga. On average, those subjects
expended more energy, according to an abstract of the unpublished
study. In any event, none of the 31 were overweight or obese—in fact
all were quite lean to begin with. In other words, the company’s test
may have detected some slight evidence that it increases calorie burning
slightly—but only in a short-term test of thin people who were given
a strictly controlled diet. And when the study was presented at a
conference of the Obesity Society (publishers of the journal Obesity
and also known as NAASO), the society disputed the study’s conclusions,
insisting “it is improper to state or imply that the results of this
study supports any weight loss” claim.
No test of Enviga lasted more than three days. One European study
found that EGCG and caffeine did not increase energy expenditure after
one month and did not help people lose weight. One longer-term Japanese
study did show that a tea fortified with EGCG and caffeine helped
people lose more weight than a control tea, but then again, the study
was conducted by a tea company and the subjects of the study were
38 of that company’s male employees.
Enviga costs between $1.29 and $1.49 per can, and the company suggests
that the maximum effect is gained by drinking three cans a day, or
about $1,500 worth of the soda per year.
“There is no clear evidence that what’s in Enviga will help you control
your weight,” said CSPI senior nutritionist David Schardt. “You’d
be much better off giving up non-diet soda, which costs nothing to
do, or by joining a gym, which is typically less expensive than paying
for 3 cans of Enviga a day.”
CSPI will be represented by its litigation director Stephen Gardner,
and by Mark Cuker and Michael J. Quirk from the firm of Williams Cuker
Berezofsky, based in Cherry Hill, N.J.
“This deceptive marketing campaign needs to be nipped in the bud before
many more millions of Americans get ripped off,” said Cuker. “Enviga
burns more money than calories.”
CSPI’s litigation unit, formed in 2004, seeks to stop deceptive labeling
or marketing campaigns or other practices that harm consumers’ health.
It’s a strategy that helped spur KFC to drop artificial trans fats
for deep-frying, and has resulted in improved labeling of products
made by Tropicana, Quaker, Frito-Lay, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, and
Cadbury-Schweppes. CSPI is soon likely to file a major lawsuit aimed
at stopping Kellogg and Viacom (parent of the Nickelodeon television
channel) from marketing junk food to young children.
“If the Food and Drug Administration were at all credible, major corporations
like Coca-Cola and Nestlé wouldn’t try to take consumers to the cleaners
like this,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “Imagine—two
of the companies partly responsible for the general fattening of America
are now urging us to pay them $4 a day to slim down with Enviga. The
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