01/24/2012 11:14 EST | Updated 03/25/2012 05:12 EDT

Weight Coalition Takes On Vitamin Drinks

The Quebec Coalition on Weight-Related Problems is calling on Health Canada to compel manufacturers of vitamin-infused drinks to reveal how much sugar they contain.

The coalition's director, Suzie Pellerin, said the makers of drinks such as Fuze and Vitamin Water list on their labels the precise quantities of vitamins B3, B6, B12 and C, but they don't specify how much sugar the drinks contain: about five teaspoons, or nearly as much as the amount in a sugary beverage such as Coke.

Pellerin blamed Health Canada for classifying the drinks as natural products instead of as food.

"That gives them...the freedom to make health claims which wouldn't be possible under food regulations," Pellerin said.

The vitamin-infused drinks are hot sellers among teenagers, but Pellerin said like any other sugar-sweetened beverage, they are not a healthy choice.

"They say it will improve your immune system," Pellerin said. "But still, it is water, it is sugar, and they just add some vitamins."

The coalition accused makers of the beverages of aiming their marketing at teens, pointing out adolescent girls drink, on average, one-third of a litre of sugary drinks per day, while boys of the same age drink a whopping half litre.

"I won't accept the fact -- or the claim -- that we're targeting teenagers," said Martin-Pierre Pelletier, a spokesperson for the Quebec branch of the Canadian Beverage Association. He said the number of calories in each drink is clearly indicated on the front of cans and bottles. But dieticians with the coalition point out there is no indication how many of those calories come from sugar.