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Rio Beverages Fined $22,600 For Misleading Claims


Media Release

Issued 14 August 2002-03 / 023

Rio Beverages fined $22,600 for misleading juice claims

Rio Beverages Limited was fined $22,600 plus court costs in the Auckland District Court today for five breaches of the Fair Trading Act relating to false and misleading claims about its "Thexton's Quality Beverages" range of products.

A Commerce Commission investigation revealed Rio's marketing of its Thexton-branded cranberry, orange, pink grapefruit and red grape products emphasised their health benefits, with the labelling of the products highlighting the inclusion of echinacea and its ability "...to assist in warding off winter colds and flu's".

Analysis carried out in the investigation indicated that people would need to drink as much as 177 litres per day of the Thexton's beverage product to obtain any of the health benefits of echinacea.

In addition to the four charges relating to echinacea content, a fifth concerned the product labelling of the Thexton's branded blackcurrant beverage, which claimed "contains 10% blackcurrant juice".

Analysis undertaken on the product measured the maximum level of blackcurrant juice content at around 4%, a figure corroborated by Rio's production manager who advised the beverage was made with 5% blackcurrant juice.

Commerce Commission Director of Fair Trading Deborah Battell says that more and more drinks manufacturers are adding substances such as echinacea, calcium, guarana and vitamins to their products, claiming health-related benefits.

"In some cases, these drinks are packaged to look like fruit drinks but in fact contain very low percentages of fruit juice or the added substances," she said.

"People need to be very wary about the claimed health benefits of these products, and the quantities they would need to drink to realise those benefits."

Judge Hole commented that with respect to the echinacea labels on Rio's Thexton's products, there was a debate as to which substances are accepted as providing therapeutic benefit, but in any event, the amount of echinacea in the juice would need to be substantial.

"This was a classic case of the public and rival traders being grossly misled by inaccurate labelling."

ENDS


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