UPDATE 1-Lawsuit vs Coke’s vitaminwater to proceed – judge

* Judge declines to dismiss awsuit vs vitaminwater

* Health advocates, consumers say labels misleading

(Adds Coca-Cola’s response)

NEW YORK, July 23 (BestGrowthStock) – The Coca-Cola Co (KO.N: ) has
failed to win dismissal of a lawsuit accusing the company of
misleading the public through health-related claims on bottles
of its vitaminwater beverage.

Judge John Gleeson of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn
ruled that the suit, brought by the Center for Science in the
Public Interest and consumers, should proceed despite
Coca-Cola’s attempt to have it dismissed on technical grounds
pertaining to the primacy of federal over state law.

Gleeson found the company’s challenge unconvincing and
stated instead that vitaminwater’s labels may violate the Food
and Drug Administration’s labeling regulations.

Specifically, the use of the word “healthy” could violate
the FDA’s “jelly bean rule,” developed to prevent food
companies from encouraging the sale of “junk foods” by
fortifying them with nutrients, according to Gleeson’s 55-page
ruling.

The rule restricts claims that use the word “healthy” to
suggest that a food, because of its nutrient content, may help
consumers maintain healthy dietary practices, and it is
possible that vitaminwater does that, Gleeson found.

The judge’s ruling, issued on Wednesday, was received by
Reuters on Friday.

“The potential for confusion is heightened by the presence
of other statements in vitaminwater’s labeling, such as the
description of the product as a ‘vitamin enhanced water
beverage’ and the phrases ‘vitamins+water = all you need’ and
‘vitamins+water = what’s in your hand’, which have the
potential to reinforce a consumer’s mistaken belief that the
product is comprised of only vitamins and water,” Gleeson said.

Company spokesman Scott Williamson defended Coke’s product,
saying labels clearly informed consumers of its contents.

“The court’s opinion yesterday was not a decision on the
merits, but simply a determination that the case can proceed
beyond the initial pleadings stage,” he said.

“We believe plaintiff’s claims are without merit and will
ultimately be rejected.”

The case is Ackerman et al v Coca-Cola Company and Energy
Brands Inc, No. 09-cv-00395, U.S. District Court for the
Eastern District of New York.

Stock Market News

(Reporting by Helen Chernikoff and Martinne Geller; Editing by
Richard Chang and Ron Popeski)

UPDATE 1-Lawsuit vs Coke’s vitaminwater to proceed – judge