If your product has a bad rap, haunted by the sugary specter of obesity, then why not just make it healthier? That’s just what the makers of 7-UP did back in 2009, when the beverage company launched a new line of the soda with an added antioxidant. Fruits and berries were splashed across the cans, and the ad copy pitched a healthier soda to consumers: “There’s never been a more delicious way to cherry pick your antioxidant.”
Except this is soda we’re talking about—an inherently unhealthy beverage. And 7-UP’s Cherry Antioxidant, Mixed Berry Antioxidant and Pomegranate Antioxidant sodas weren’t fortified with the natural antioxidants (note the plural) found in the fruits from which they took their names. Rather, the only antioxidant in the beverage was a touch of vitamin E—an eight-ounce serving provided 10 percent of the recommended daily value.
Back in November, the Center for Science in the Public Interest sued on behalf of a consumer in California who purchased the drinks but was unaware that the antioxidant only came from an added vitamin. Today, the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, which makes 7-UP, agreed to stop adding vitamins to its soft drinks and will no longer claim that its products contain antioxidants.
The lawsuit won’t go forward now, but had it gone to trial, 7-UP would have had to contend with the Food and Drug Administration’s own take on companies giving junk food a healthful gloss. The agency “does not encourage indiscriminate addition of nutrient to foods, nor does it consider it appropriate to fortify...snack foods such as candies and carbonated beverages.”