Coca-Cola Rejects FDA Regulations
By Lara Endreszl
December 27, 2008

In an American diet of hot dogs and potato chips, nothing goes better with a plate of salty food than a nice cold soda. We consume more soda on average than any other country. According to a 2005 survey published in Beverage Digest, over 10 billion cases of soda were purchased in one year alone. On average that guarantees two and a half 12-ounce cans of soda for every adult and child in the United States every day. Needless to say we have an addiction to sugary, carbonated beverages and there should be no surprise that we have an obesity epidemic. A new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning tells Coca-cola to check their regulation book again, and change one of their products.

Diet Coke has been around since 1982 when it was born on supermarket shelves and mini mart coolers on Independence Day, the biggest (and often warmest) day of the year for outdoor activitie,s from picnics and barbeques to Frisbee, softball, and firework-watching. Since then, Diet Coke has been the staple for a calorie-free alternative to Coke, with many other brands trying to close the gap. Diet Coke debuted with cheers because there was no sugar added and only relied on artificial sweeteners which provided the same comfort of soda without foregoing taste for calorie-watchers or diabetics. However, what they took away they made up for in caffeine. An average can of Diet Coke has 42 milligrams of the stimulant versus 35 for regular Coke.

Diet Coke Plus­named Coca-Cola Light Plus outside the U.S.­was released in 2007 and marketed with the description, “Diet Coke with Vitamins and Minerals.” Claiming the drink is fortified with 25 percent of the daily intake value for niacin, vitamins B6, B12, and 15 percent of zinc and magnesium.

On December 10, the FDA issued a warning letter to Coca-cola President and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Muhtar Kent claiming that Diet Coke Plus violates the U.S. Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) by printing the word “plus” on their labels. The FDA goes on to say that a soft drink is not considered a healthy beverage and cannot justify using the word in its name. According to the wording of the FDCA, foods containing nutrients must provide at least 10 percent more of the Daily Reference Value (DRV) also known as the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for it to legally be considered “plus.”

The FDCA is a compilation of laws set in 1938 by Congress giving the principal authority to the FDA to regulate food, drugs and cosmetics. The FDCA has been amended many times and most recently in response to new regulations regarding bioterrorism.

The FDA also considers it to be inappropriate to add nutrients to a snack food like sodas. Coca-Cola has been asked to fix the violation and revise the label by excluding the word “plus” in order to comply with the Act’s standards. Coca-Cola was originally given 15 days to respond and come up with a plan to revamp the soda’s look, but representatives from the company say they will submit their reply no earlier than January and that at this time there have been no plans made to change their labeling on Diet Coke Plus. Issued in a statement, the company says of the FDCA’s accusation, “This does not involve any health or safety issues, and we believe the label on Diet Coke Plus complies with FDA's policies and regulations.”

The letter, signed by director of the office of compliance, Roberta Wagner, at the Center of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, says Coca-Cola should comply with the standards and, “take prompt action to correct these violations.” If Coca-Cola refuses to cooperate with the FDA’s ruling and continues to ignore its rules, a violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act could rack up large fines and even prompt a seizure of products, however most likely no such drastic measures will have to be taken. An FDA Warning Letter is not legally binding, but if they continue to be ignored, they have grounds to take the company to court.

With herbal supplements, flavored waters, and supercharged energy drinks promoted as healthier alternatives, promising a great taste with added benefits of energy, daily vitamins and minerals, and the ability to still look cool and help your body, why wouldn’t carbonated beverage giants want to hop aboard? Everywhere you look from cereal and yogurt to toaster pastries and canned ravioli companies are adding “more vitamins and nutrients” to ensure a well-rounded meal, even if what you’re eating isn’t entirely healthy. With billions of gallons of soda consumed every year, it’s only natural for Coca-Cola to want a little piece of the hype, only next time they should be sure to double-check the fine print.

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