A recent consumer class action lawsuit is challenging the marketing of Diet Dr. Pepper, claiming the popular soft drink does not assist in weight loss as its “diet” label infers because it contains artificial sweeteners, specifically aspartame, that actually lead to weight gain.
Plaintiff Shana Becerra, a regular purchaser of Diet Dr. Pepper for over a decade, has struggled with obesity since childhood. She claims in the Diet Dr. Pepper false advertising class action lawsuit that she purchased and consumed the soft drink in large part because she believed, based on Dr. Pepper Snapple Group’s advertising, that Diet Dr. Pepper’s lack of calories, would not cause her to gain weight.
Filed in California federal court, the Diet Dr. Pepper false advertising class action lawsuit says the soft drink is marketed to assist in weight loss and healthy weight management due to its non-calorie artificial sweetener, aspartame. However, the 18-page complaint cites various recent scientific reviews and studies that while aspartame does not contain calories, the sweetener does actually contribute to weight gain.
This is where Becerra really takes issue with Dr. Pepper Snapple Group’s marketing of Diet Dr. Pepper as “diet”. Becerra states that DPSG’s use of the term “diet” to market Diet Dr. Pepper is likely to deceive reasonable consumers. Becerra’s lawsuit goes on to state that DPSG intentionally profited at the expense of their customers by inferring that Diet Dr. Pepper can help consumers in “achieving and maintaining a healthy weight” in its labeling when in actuality drinking Diet Dr. Pepper can allegedly lead to weight gain and contribute to metabolic disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
“If DPSG were enjoined from making the misleading claims, the market demand and price for Diet Dr. Pepper would drop, as it has been artificially and fraudulently inflated due to DPSG’s use of false, misleading, and unlawful labeling,” the lawsuit contends.
Specifically, the Diet Dr. Pepper false advertising class action lawsuit says that DPSG violated Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and California food labeling regulations. The FDCA prohibits the labeling of food that is “false or misleading in any particular”. FDCA regulations also provide that companies may use the term “diet” in the brand name or label of a soft drink only when it is not false or misleading.
Becerra seeks to represent a class comprised of California residents “who, on or after October 16, 2013, purchased, for personal use or household use, and not for resale, Diet Dr. Pepper in cans or bottles.” Along with statutory, compensatory, and punitive damages, the lawsuit is asking the court to enjoin DPSG from marketing Diet Dr. Pepper as “diet” so long as it is sweetened with aspartame or any other non-nutritive artificial sweetener linked to weight gain. The lawsuit is requesting statutory, compensatory, and punitive damages.
Similar but separate allegations were brought against The Coca-Cola Company and Pepsi-Cola in New York federal court in October. Both plaintiffs in the Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi false advertising class action lawsuits challenge the use of the word “diet” in marketing the soft drinks, stating that both Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi are anything but diet because they contain aspartame.
Becerra and the proposed class are represented by Jack Fitzgerald, Trevor Flynn, and Melanie Persinger of The Law Offices of Jack Fitzgerald PC.; and Andrew Sacks and John Weston of Sacks Weston Diamond LLC.
The Diet Dr. Pepper False Advertising Class Action Lawsuit is Shana Becerra, et al. v. Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Inc., Case No. 4:17-cv-05921-SBA, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.