Taking the fizz out of Coke ad claims

CANBERRA Thu Apr 2, 2009 11:36am EDT

Coca-Cola bottles spin around at the exit to the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia, February 12, 2009. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

Coca-Cola bottles spin around at the exit to the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia, February 12, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Tami Chappell

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CANBERRA (Reuters) - Claims Coke will not make children fat or rot their teeth have landed Coca-Cola in trouble with Australia's consumer watchdog, which Thursday ordered the soft drink company to correct its advertising.

Coca-Cola South Pacific (CCSP) last year ran advertising titled "Motherhood & Myth-Busting," featuring popular Australian actress Kerry Armstrong and claiming Coke was "kiddy-safe."

As well as claiming Coke did not make children fat or harm their teeth, the full-page print ads sought to combat public perceptions that Coke was packed with large amounts of caffeine.

"Now that I've found out what's myth and what isn't, it's good to know that our family can continue to enjoy one of our favorite drinks," Armstrong said in the advertisements. "My boys now call me Mum, the Myth Buster!" she said.

The company also said in the ads it was time "to state the facts and to help you understand the truth behind Coca-Cola."

But the powerful Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Thursday ordered CCSP to correct its claims.

"Coke's messages were totally unacceptable, creating an impression which is likely to mislead that Coca-Cola cannot contribute to weight gain, obesity and tooth decay," ACCC Chairman Graeme Samuel said in a statement.

"They also had the potential to mislead parents about the potential consequences of consuming Coca-Cola," he said.

CCSP had agreed to publish corrective advertisements in major newspapers in every major Australian city, as well as on the company's own website, Samuel said.

The company was also ordered to include the correct levels of caffeine for Coca-Cola, Diet Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Zero after the ads claimed the soft drink contained the same amount of caffeine as tea brewed from leaves or bags, or as instant coffee.

(Editing by Valerie Lee)

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