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WASHINGTON -- One day after Coca-Cola and Nestlé's joint venture, Beverage Partners Worldwide, announced the nationwide distribution of its sparkling green tea that burns calories, Enviga, the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed a lawsuit against the company for its health claims, and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called for an investigation into the product, arguing that the product's claims are not scientific.
The CSPI called the company's marketing and labeling claims of "calorie burning" fraudulent, and CSPI scientists that reviewed studies cited by Coke and Nestle stated that the drink is a highly-caffeinated diet soda, exactly what it claims not to be, according to CSPI.
Studies cited by the joint venture found that when EGCG and caffeine are present at the levels comparable to that in three cans of Enviga, healthy subjects in the lean to normal weight range can experience an average increase in calorie burning by 60 to 100 calories, Beverage Partners Worldwide stated in a release.
"Enviga represents the perfect partnership of science and nature, providing an optimum blend of green tea extracts and caffeine," Dr. Rhona Applebaum, chief scientist, The Coca-Cola Co., said in a written statement. "Enviga is designed to work with your body to increase calorie burning. It creates a negative calorie effect -- in other words, you burn more calories than you get from drinking it. We believe consumers are smart and understand that Enviga is designed to complement, not replace, regular exercise, a sensible diet and other healthy choices they make throughout the day."
CSPI stated that the claims are based on a 72-hour Nestle-funded study of 31 people that were given a drink containing the same amounts of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and caffeine equivalent to three cans of Enviga. The study found that subjects expended more energy, according to an unpublished abstract, the group stated. The subjects were not overweight or obese, and the test may have detected some evidence that the ingredients increase calorie burning slightly, in a short-term test of thin people on a strictly-controlled diet, CSPI stated.
In addition, no Enviga test lasted more than three days, CSPI argued. In a European test, 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 the study was conducted by a tea company and the subjects of the study were 38 of the company's male employees, CSPI stated.
"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 three cans of Enviga a day."
CSPI will be represented by its litigation director Stephen Gardner, in addition to Mark Cuker and Michael J. Quirk from Williams Cuker Berezofsky, located in Cherry Hill, N.J. The CSPI suit was filed in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey. In December, the group filed a formal notification on Coke and Nestle, in addition to their partnership, Beverage Partners Worldwide, stating that if the product's claims of weight loss and calorie burning were to continue, CSPI would file a lawsuit.
"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 estimates that at the three can per day recommendation for maximum results, consumers would spend $1,500 dollars a year on the product.
Asked to respond to CSPI's statement, Ray Crockett of Coca-Cola told Businessweek: "We have sound science. We vigorously dispute their unsupported allegations and oppose this merit-less lawsuit. We believe our customers can inform themselves and make decisions, and we have been clear that Enviga is not a weight loss product."
CSPI is not the only consumer advocate that is skeptical of the product's claims. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced that his office is investigating claims that Coke and Nestlé's joint venture, Beverage Partners Worldwide, made about Enviga's "calorie-burning" ingredients.
In separate letters to BPW, Coca-Cola and Nestle, Blumenthal asked for evidence to support the calorie-burning claims.
"Unless there are credible scientific studies to support these calorie-burning claims, they may be nothing more than voodoo nutrition," Blumenthal said in a written statement. "Promise of wondrous weight loss must be supported by science, not magic. These two reputable companies imperil their own credibility if they exploit the public's perennial impossible dream -- a magical drink that may be perceived as a substitute for exercise and a balanced diet. The rollout of this product should include legitimate studies substantiating such counterintuitive claims."
Blumenthal's office requested copies of all scientific studies, clinical tests or papers that support calorie-burning claims, in addition to information on the companies that funded such studies.