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Nestle, Coca-Cola are sued on beverage calorie claims

Nestle SA and Coca-Cola Co. are being sued by a US public-interest group over claims about the calorie-burning effects of Enviga, a green-tea drink made by joint venture Beverage Partners Worldwide.

The non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a lawsuit in federal court in New Jersey, where the beverage is being introduced. The Washington-based group called Enviga „just a highly caffeinated and over-priced diet soda and exactly the kind of faddy, phony diet it claims not to be” in a statement posted on its Web site late yesterday. The legal action is a „meritless publicity stunt,” Francois Perroud, a spokesman for Vevey, Switzerland-based Nestle, said today. „We vigorously dispute these unsupported allegations and will energetically defend ourselves against this lawsuit,” said Ray Crockett, a spokesman for Coca-Cola. Nestle and Atlanta-based Coca-Cola say that consumption of three daily portions of Enviga, which contains green-tea extracts, caffeine and calcium, by a lean- to average-weight person boosts calorie metabolism by 60 to 100 calories. The companies have responded to public concern about obesity-related ailments by developing so-called functional foods that they say can improve consumers' health. The introduction of Enviga comes as the European Commission, which sets consumer-protection standards for the 25 countries of the European Union, is drafting rules expected to be introduced later this year that will restrict health-benefit claims companies can make.

The claims on Enviga are based on a Nestle-funded study of 31 people that amounted to a „short-term test of thin people who were given a strictly controlled diet,” the center said. „There is no clear evidence that what's in Enviga will help you control your weight,” said David Schardt, the center's senior nutritionist. „You'd be much better off giving up non-diet soda.” An independent study on Enviga in the peer-reviewed journal Obesity will be published soon, Crockett said. „We have been clear from the beginning that this is not a weight-loss product,” he said. Luc Tappy, a professor at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland who helped develop the drink, said the potential calorie-burning effects of the ingredient found in the green-tea extract, epigallocatechin gallate, are significant but should not be overstated. „It's not going to be a miracle product, but it's an interesting concept,” he said in an interview last October. Nestle is the world's biggest food company, and Coca-Cola is the largest maker of soft drinks. (Bloomberg)