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Court Tosses Suit, Explains that Diet Dr Pepper Isn’t a Weight Loss Aid

— January 1, 2020

The plaintiff seemingly argued that drinking Diet Dr Pepper should’ve given her a model’s body.

On Monday, a federal appeals court scrapped a lawsuit which claimed Diet Dr. Pepper misled customers into believing it was a weight loss aid.

Reuters reports that the decision was made by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The three-judge panel unanimously moved to reject the suit, filed by California resident Shana Becerra.

In her complaint, Becerra alleged that Dr. Pepper—now part of Keurig Dr Pepper Inc—misled consumers by applying a ‘diet’ label to a 0-calorie version of the well-known brand. Becerra said Dr. Pepper’s marketing tactics, which included ads featuring thin, attractive models, was tantamount to fraud and in violation of state law.

However, Becerra’s claims went beyond a simple challenge to the ‘diet’ in Diet Dr. Pepper. Becerra said she’d struggled with obesity since childhood and had reviewed scientific literature to peruse the health effects of soda. Her suit alleges that aspartame, an artificial sweetener used in Diet Dr. Pepper, is linked by scientific evidence to weight gain.

image of a legal gavel and books
Legal gavel and books; image courtesy of
succo via Pixabay,

But the 9th Circuit Court took issue with the Becerra’s tenuous connection of the “diet” moniker with health benefits. In writing the 3-0 decision, Circuit Judge Jay Bybee stated that Becerra failed to demonstrate that “reasonable” consumers believe they’ll lose weight simply by drinking diet soda.

“No reasonable consumer would assume that Diet Dr Pepper’s use of the term ‘diet’ promises weight loss or management,” Bybee wrote. “The use of ‘diet’ in a soft drink’s brand name is understood as a relative claim about the calorie content of that soft drink compared to the same brand’s ‘regular’ (full-caloric) option.”

“Just because some consumers may unreasonably interpret the term differently does not render the use of ‘diet’ in a soda’s brand name false or deceptive,” the court said.

Evan Young, an attorney for Dr Pepper/Seven up, told Reuters he’s happy the court recognized what many might construe as common sense.

“We appreciate that the Ninth Circuit has allowed common sense to prevail and that it rejected the attempt to complicate something so simple,” Young said.

Reuters notes that the court’s decision upholds a 2018 dismissal by U.S. District Judge William Orrick.

The loss was the second for Becerra in less than a week. She’d also tried suing the Coca-Cola Company over its branding of ‘Diet Coke’ as ‘diet,’ claiming she “get what [she] paid for.” The San Francisco Chronicle writes that the Ninth Circuit Court “tersely” dismissed that case, too, saying the diet label “does not convey a general weight-loss promise.”

Becerra had been hoping to certify her suit as a class action on behalf of all California residents similarly “misled” by ‘diet’ labeling.


Diet Dr Pepper does not promise weight loss or deceive consumers: U.S. appeals court

Diet Dr Pepper sued: Bay Area woman expected model’s body

‘Diet’ soft drinks do not falsely advertise weight loss, appeals court in SF says

Woman Upset She Didn’t Lose Weight Loses ‘Diet’ Dr Pepper Lawsuit Appeal

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