Coconut Water Lawsuit: Do Nutritional Claims Hold Water?

The only thing that may be truthful in Vita Coco's ad is the part about bikinis being optional.
The only thing that may be truthful in Vita Coco's ad is the part about bikinis being optional.
T. Nguyen

Drink Vita Coco or O.N.E. Coconut Water because of its health benefits? Use either liquid as a cure for a nasty hangover? Shocked to learn that, according to a recent study, neither brand of coconut water has as many nutrients they claim? If so, you may be putative members of one or both class action lawsuits filed last week against the manufacturers in Los Angeles Superior Court.

ConsumerLab recently tested the waters, so to speak, of three of the major coconut water brands: Vita Coco, O.N.E. Coconut Water, and Zico. Of those three, only Zico delivered on its nutritional claims. The study found that the other two had "far fewer" electrolytes, sodium and magnesium than the amounts printed on their labels.

In response to the study, the makers of Vita Coco and O.N.E. Coconut Water point out that, unlike Zico's use of concentrate, their waters are made from all-natural products. Because quantifying Mother Nature is inherently a tricky process, they argue, deviations from the amounts stated in their respective labels are to be expected, but in no case exceed the 20% allowance permitted by law.

Nonetheless, Kevin Shenkman, an "avid runner" who purchased and drank Vita Coco and O.N.E. Coconut Water for its "'super-hydrating' attributes," was "disheartened" to learn about the study, reports Thomson Reuters. Naturally, he decided to sue both companies for false advertising and fraud. On behalf of all potential runners, swimmers, cyclists and even non-avid athletes, he is asking for an undetermined amount of damages, official apologies and that both companies run advertising campaigns to correct their claims.

Interestingly, the same article reveals that Shenkman too is a lawyer and the lead plaintiff in a class action suit against Panda Express, claiming that the fast food chain with excellent orange chicken adds chicken powder to its vegetarian entrees.

No court date has been set yet for his latest suit, so we'll have to wait and see if the case holds water. In the meantime, might we suggest that you simply respect the fruits of Mother Nature, drink it for what it is and super-hydrate with a bottle of Gatorade instead?

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