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Molson Coors under fire for seltzer vitamin C claims

Editorial credit: David Tonelson / Seltzers 2021

Two consumer groups have asked FDA to formally prohibit nutrient content claims on alcoholic drinks in a letter that alleged Molson Coors Beverage Company is misleading consumers with an advertising campaign for its Vizzy Hard Seltzer.

Launched in the U.S. in April 2020, the alcoholic drink is fortified with antioxidant vitamin C from acerola superfruit. One advertisement for Vizzy states the drink is the “first” hard seltzer to be produced with vitamin C, while another ad proclaims, “Yeah, we’ve got the antioxidant vitamin C,” the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and Consumer Federation of America said in a news release announcing the letter to FDA.

Molson Coors’ vitamin C claims violate an FDA fortification policy that says it’s inappropriate to add vitamins and minerals to alcoholic drinks, according to the consumer groups.

“The claims are also misleading in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) because they suggest that Vizzy is a healthful source of nutrients, obscuring the fact that alcoholic beverages provide empty calories, are associated with serious health conditions and can impair the body’s metabolism of nutrients,” CSPI and the Consumer Federation of America alleged in a March 15 letter to Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN).

Twelve-ounce cans of Vizzy contain 100 calories and 5% alcohol by volume. On the Vizzy website, the labels of the various flavors suggests the product contains 19 milligrams of vitamin C, or 21% of the recommended daily value.

But a representative of CSPI recommended consumers obtain vitamins from foods first, then turn to a multivitamin or supplement if necessary.

“Alcoholic beverages are the absolute last place where you should go looking for or expect to find vitamins,” said Eva Greenthal, CSPI senior science policy associate, in the news release.

In its annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Molson Coors said the 2020 launches of Vizzy and Coors Seltzer in the U.S. diversified its portfolio and position the company well in the market for hard seltzers. And Molson Coors divulged its plans to expand the brands into Canada.

Martin Maloney, a spokesman for Molson Coors, responded to the consumer groups’ allegations in a brief email. “While antioxidant Vitamin C is part of what makes Vizzy stand out, we have always been committed to communicating this product attribute responsibly,” he said.

In the letter to Mayne, the consumer groups requested FDA take enforcement action against Molson Coors and other manufacturers of alcoholic beverages making claims based on fortification. They also encouraged FDA “to move expeditiously to issue regulations formally prohibiting nutrient content claims on FDA-regulated alcoholic beverages, regardless of whether these claims are based on nutrients added through fortification.”

Marianna Naum, an FDA spokeswoman, said her agency is reviewing the letter from the consumer groups and will respond directly to them.


TAGS: Regulatory
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