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Coca-Cola Gold Peak Tea Deceptive “No Preservatives” Labeling Class Action

Gold Peak Tea

Does Coca-Cola’s Gold Peak Tea contain preservatives, even though its labels says it doesn’t? The complaint for this class action says yes, because they contain citric acid, phosphoric acid, and/or ascorbic acid.

The class for this action includes all individuals who made retail purchases of the Gold Peak Tea products in New York during the class period. The class period has not yet been specifically defined. The products in question include any sizes of the following:

  • Gold Peak Diet Tea (citric acid and phosphoric acid)
  • Gold Peak Lemon Tea (citric acid)
  • Gold Peak Unsweetened Tea (phosphoric acid)
  • Gold Peak Sweet Tea (phosphoric acid)
  • Gold Peak Green Tea (citric acid and ascorbic acid)

Nowadays, many consumers want to buy food products that don’t have additives and preservatives, and they are often willing to spend more for them. The complaint alleges that Coca-Cola took advantage of this willingness in labeling its Gold Peak Tea products as having “no preservatives.”

However, the complaint quotes the FDA as defining preservative in this way: “The term chemical preservative means any chemical that, when added to food, tends to prevent or retard deterioration thereof, but does not include common salt, sugars, vinegars, spices, or oils extracted from spices, substances added to food by direct exposure thereof to wood smoke, or chemicals applied for their insecticidal or herbicidal properties.”

According to the complaint, citric acid, phosphoric acid, and ascorbic acid all fit into this definition because they “tend to” prevent or slow the deterioration of food, regardless of whether they were added for other purposes as well.

Citric Acid: The complaint notes that citric acid is expressly classified as a preservative by the FDA, in its website’s Overview of Food Ingredients, Additives, and Colors.

Phosphoric Acid: According to the complaint, the American Beverage Association says that phosphoric acid “is a preservative that provides tartness” and that, among other things, the Encyclopedia of Food and Color Additives says that it “works effectively to reduce the pH in many food products allowing antimicrobial agents to be more effective.” In addition, the complaint quotes at least one scholarly source on its concerns about the increasing intake of phosphates via commercially processed food and drinks.

Ascorbic Acid: The complaint notes that the FDA expressly classifies ascorbic acid as a preservative. It quotes an explanation of types of preservatives in the online magazine as saying that ascorbic acid is “a preservative that stops foods from continuing to ripen, an aging process that leads to decay.”

Furthermore, the complaint argues that even if the substances are added for taste, they still act as preservatives. Thus, the complaint alleges, Coca-Cola has violated New York’s General Business Law as well as committed fraud in its labeling of the products as having “no preservatives.”

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