Molson Coors Brewing Co. has agreed to remove the claim “with antioxidant vitamin C from acerola superfruit” from cans and packs of Vizzy hard seltzer and pay $9.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit.
When several consumers filed suit in federal court in California in September of 2021, they alleged that the Vizzy labeling claim was “unlawful and misleading” -- but did not question whether the beverage actually contained the vitamin C as stated.
The lawsuit accused Molson Coors of violating California and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.
Molson Coors won a partial dismissal of the case, which proceeded after the plaintiffs amended their initial complaint.
Six months before the suit was filed, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) asked the FDA to bring enforcement proceedings against Molson Coors.
In a joint letter, the two organizations claimed that Molson Coors had violated FDA rules “that prohibit misleading claims and strongly discourage food companies from fortifying snack foods, carbonated drinks or alcoholic drinks with vitamins.”
The claims for Vizzy were misleading because they implied that Vizzy was “more healthful than hard seltzers made without it,” the letter stated.
The FDA did not respond to the letter, according to Thomas Gremillion, director of food policy at CFA.
“The FDA regulations expressly prohibit vitamin fortification claims on alcoholic beverages and the agency’s failure to enforce its rules raise serious concerns,” Gremillion tells Marketing Daily.
“Here, the court system has filled the regulatory void but there are too many other instances in which no one is taking up the slack for the agency’s inaction.”
Molson Coors has denied all of the allegations but “considers it desirable to resolve the litigation on the terms stated herein, in order to avoid further burden, expense, inconvenience and interference with its ongoing business operations,” according to the proposed settlement agreement.
A final hearing on the agreement is scheduled for July 12. If approved, it would benefit people who bought Vizzy between Jan. 1 of 2020 and March 10 of 2023.