7UP sued over antioxidant claims

Soda as a health food? The Center for Science in the Public Interest begs to differ.

Although the label on 7UP's new line of antioxidant regular and diet sodas claims "There's never been a more delicious way to cherry pick your antioxidant!" the consumer group has cried foul and it's suing the soda's maker, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, for making false health claims.

CSPI said the drinks contain not a single drop of fruit juice and only a "small amount" of added vitamin E -- which the group claims has no proven antioxidant benefits anyway.

"Nondiet varieties of 7UP, like other sugary drinks, promote obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, and other serious health problems, and no amount of antioxidants could begin to reduce those risks," said CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson. "Adding an antioxidant to a soda is like adding menthol to a cigarette -- neither does anything to make an unhealthy product healthy."

Despite pictures of wholesome fruit dancing across the label, the new line of 7UP antioxident sodas contains no fruit, accoding to its maker. True, they do contain a small amount of vitamin E. But any purported health benefits of antioxidants are suggested by studies involving the consumption of whole fruits and vegetables -- not guzzling artificially fortified fizzy drinks.

It's not as if the sodas are packed with other healthful ingredients either. The 7UP Cherry Antioxidant flavor, for example, lists water, high-fructose corn syrup, citric acid, potassium benzoateand the controversial dye Red 40 on its label. A 12-ounce serving contains 9 teaspoons (38 grams) of sugars and 140 calories. And diet versions contain the artificial sweeteners aspartame and acesulfame potassium.

CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner said he's looking forward "to having 7UP go under oath and testify before a judge or a jury that this disease-promoting sugar water is actually a source of healthy antioxidants."

A spokesman for Dr Pepper Snapple Group said the soda "is properly labeled under all FDA regulations so that consumers can make an informed choice." But the company said it already had plans to reformulate and relabel the soda by February 2013.

"The new Cherry 7UP will not contain antioxidants to be consistent with the formulation and appearance of other 7UP products," spokesman Chris Barnes said in a statement.