Coke Questioned on Its Dasani Advertising
By THOMAS WAGNER
The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 3, 2004; 2:01 AM
LONDON - The Coca-Cola Co., world famous for its "real thing" sodas, is being questioned in Britain about using the word "pure" to advertise its Dasani bottled water.
Why? Because it's specially treated London tap water.
On Tuesday, British trading standard officials asked the borough where Coke's headquarters is based to look into the matter.
Coke, which sells a similarly made Dasani water in the Untied States, said it's confident it's abiding by the local rules.
"We work closely with all regulatory bodies and in this instance we are fully satisfied that we are compliant with all guidelines and regulations," the company said in a statement.
A Coke spokesman said on condition of anonymity that the complaint may have been made by its competitors in Britain's $1.9 billion-a-year bottled water market.
Coke says its Dasani water is treated in a highly sophisticated filtration process, perfected by NASA to purify fluids on spacecraft.
But why, British newspapers such as The Daily Mail asked Tuesday, should consumers pay up to $1.76 for 17 ounces of Dasani when it's based on London drinking water that costs 6 cents for the same amount?
The same purification process is used for the Dasani water that Coke has sold in the United States since 1999. Dasani is the second-best seller in the bottled water market there, behind a similar purified water product - Aquafina - made by Pepsi-Cola Co.
Britain's Food Standards Agency asked the borough authority where Coca-Cola's headquarters is based to look into whether the term "pure, still water" breached labeling guidelines.
Dasani, which was launched in Britain last month, uses municipal water at Coca-Cola's factory in Sidcup, southeast London.
The soft drinks giant said a "highly sophisticated purification process" removes any impurities, such as "bacteria, viruses, salts, minerals, sugars, proteins and toxin particles" from the tap water.
The Food Standards Agency said Dasani may have broken guidelines designed to protect shoppers from misleading marketing.
"This bottled water does not appear to follow our labeling guidance on the use of the term `pure,'" an agency spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity.
"Consumers may not realize that there are three types of water sold in bottles: natural mineral water, spring water and drinking water (which can be tap water). If a product is not labeled as mineral water or spring water, it will, in fact, be bottled drinking water."
The FSA's guidelines state the term "pure" should only apply to "single ingredient foods or to highlight the quality of ingredients."
Since Dasani takes tap water, a pure product, removes material through purification, then adds calcium, magnesium and sodium bicarbonate for taste, it may not be allowed to be called "pure," he said.
© 2004 The Associated Press