We all know that soda is bad for us. The sugar, the high fructose corn syrup, and phosphoric acid (!) can’t be too healthy. But diet soda, on the other hand, is better, right? Fewer calories mean diet sodas might actually help us maintain a healthy weight or even lose weight, right?
Wrong, according to three federal lawsuits filed against the three largest makers of carbonated beverages in the U.S. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Dr Pepper Snapple Group, are all being sued for their marketing of diet sodas that plaintiffs claim mislead consumers into thinking those beverages are healthy, or at least healthier than regular soda.
The legal claims center around diet soda manufacturers’ use of non-caloric artificial sweetener aspartame, often substituted for sugar or high fructose corn syrup in diet versions of regular sodas. The lawsuits claim diet drinks sweetened with aspartame do not aide the body’s ability in any way to metabolize calories, which contributes to weight gain and loss. Not only that, but aspartame has allegedly been scientifically proven to likely cause weight gain if frequently consumed.
According to the complaints, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper/Snapple are either already aware or reasonably should be aware of this published scientific evidence, but continue to falsely, misleadingly, and illegally promote zero-calorie products like Diet Pepsi, Diet Coke and Diet Dr. Pepper as “diet,” knowing such a label would be a major driver of sales.
“What’s been going on is clearly deceptive advertising,” Abraham Melamed, one of the attorneys in the cases told CBS. “In our opinion, it’s one of the biggest consumer scams in the last 50 years, and it has to stop. There’s a strong sense of urgency because there are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of consumers out there that are being deceived on a daily basis.” The class action lawsuits seek to cover consumers in New York who purchased Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, or Pepsi diet sodas between October 16, 2011 and the present.
Coca-Cola responded, calling the claims “completely meritless.” “Diet Coke is a great-tasting, zero calorie beverage,” said company spokeswoman Kate Hartman, “and always has been properly labeled and marketed in compliance with all applicable regulations.”