When Light Isn’t Light – Bud Light Lime-A-Rita Case

On Tuesday February 7th a group of Plaintiffs brought a suit against Anheuser-Busch LLC in the Ninth Circuit Court arguing that the brewer’s use of the term “light” on the labeling of the Lime-A-Rita packaging was misleading to consumers as being a lighter alternative alcohol beverage. Since Bud Light is known to be lighter in calories than a regular Budweiser, the Plaintiffs argue that consumers are being misled when the Bud Light Lime-A-Rita beverage actually contains three times as many calories as a Bud Light Lime beer.

 

According to Law360, counsel for Anheuser-Busch urged the appellate court to uphold the lower court’s ruling, arguing first that the TTB, which regulates alcohol packages, had “expressly” said that the “light” was OK by approving its label, and thus the brewer had “safe harbor from the suit.”

So when is “Light” allowed to be classified as “Light”? According to TTB Ruling 2004-1 as amended by TTB Ruling 2013-2, “the words “light” and “lite” may be used as part of the brand or product name of a wine, distilled spirits product, or malt beverage, provided that if the term implies a caloric representation, the label or advertisement must include a statement of average analysis.”

The best advice for consumers is to take a closer look at the nutrition labels on the products they consume for all the nutritional content and caloric information and not to rely on descriptive phrases when making nutritional decisions.

As for the Bud Light Lime-A-Rita Suit a three judge panel will continue to review the matter before rendering a final decision.

By: Oren Cytrynbaum