Court rules Diet Dr Pepper does NOT promise mislead consumers

Court rules Diet Dr Pepper does NOT promise weight loss after woman sued makers saying she bought the drink for 13 years and ‘did not get what she paid for’

  • Shana Becerra of Santa Rosa, California, sued Dr Pepper, claiming it’s diet drinks were misleading and did she ‘did not get what she paid for’ 
  • The court dismissed Becerra’s argument that the use of ‘attractive, fit models in the ads implies that Diet Dr Pepper will help its consumers achieve those bodies’
  • A federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled Monday that Diet Dr Pepper’s name is not misleading and does not promise slimming effects
  • It may ease pressure on other companies like Coca-Cola 
  • But studies suggest that even zero calorie sodas are linked to earlier death and obesity  

Calling a soft drink ‘diet’ isn’t a weight-loss promise, a federal appeals court said Monday.

The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco refused to reinstate a class-action lawsuit by a woman who argued that the makers of Diet Dr Pepper committed fraud.

Shana Becerra of Santa Rosa argued that she had been drinking Diet Dr Pepper for more than 13 years and ‘did not receive what she paid for’ because of deceptive advertising, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. 

But when used as an adjective, the dictionary definition of ‘diet’ refers to a product that has fewer calories that the ‘regular’ version of the product, said the ruling by Judge Jay Bybee in a 3-0 appellate panel decision.

‘No reasonable consumer would assume that Diet Dr Pepper’s use of the term `diet´ promises weight loss or management,’ Bybee wrote.

A federal appeals court ruled that Diet Dr Pepper’s name is not misleading and does not promise weight loss, despite studies suggesting diet drinks may fuel obesity 

In upholding a lower court’s dismissal of her suit, the panel also dismissed Becerra’s argument that the use of ‘attractive, fit models in the ads implies that Diet Dr Pepper will help its consumers achieve those bodies.’

Although it may have fewer calories than regular or no calories at all, diet sodas contain equally little nutritional value and some research suggests drinking them may actually lead to weight gain and contribute to the US obesity epidemic. 

But in the eyes of the court, using the term ‘diet’ and featuring slim models in ads doesn’t amount to misleading consumers that drinking the sodas is tantamount to dieting. 

Diet soda’s role in the obesity epidemic has been the subject of much debate, study and a number of court cases. 

Unarguably, the drinks contain fewer calories than regular sodas – a distinction that, legally speaking, earns them the right to their names.

But one 2019 study found that people who drank as little as two diet sodas a day – of any brand – were at higher risks of early deaths than people who drank less or no supposedly healthier sodas. 

Of course, this is merely an association, and doesn’t suggest that  

Among the ways that companies keep calorie counts lower for diet sodas is by cutting out sugar and substituting in one of six Food and Drug Administration-approved artificial sweeteners. 

Recent studies have found that these sweeteners, including asperatame 

The panel cited a federal appeals court ruling in New York in a similar case against Diet Coke that said the use of such models in advertising is ubiquitous and can’t reasonably be understood to carry any specific meaning.

The same San Francisco court last week dismissed an appeal by Becerra against the makers of Diet Coke, on grounds that it didn’t have jurisdiction in that case.

A message seeking comment from Jack Fitzgerald of San Diego, one of Becerra’s attorneys, was not immediately returned Monday night.

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