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Gatorade Pays $300K For Anti-Water Claims

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Gatorade Co. agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a complaint with California over a mobile game that discouraged drinking water, the California attorney general's office said.

The settlement terms also call for putting $120,000 towards the research or promotion of childhood and teenage nutrition and consumption of water.

The state Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a complaint accusing the beverage maker of false advertising. The company allegedly used a mobile game featuring track superstar Usain Bolt to illegally advertise water as a bad drink for athletes. In the filing, Becerra complained that the game could lead children to make bad nutritional choices.

He said in a statement, "Making misleading statements is a violation of California law. But making misleading statements aimed at our children is beyond unlawful, it's morally wrong and a betrayal of trust."

Gatorade's free mobile game "Bolt!" was released in 2012. The game featured a cartoon version of the Olympic gold medalist running to recover gold coins stolen by pirates. In the game, players help "refuel" Bolt's race to a finish line. The sprinter picks up speed when he hits Gatorade icons, but slows when he runs into water. The game's instructions encouraged users to "keep your performance high and avoid water."

The game is lo longer available, but was downloaded 30,000 times in California and 2.3 million times worldwide. It was played 87 million times in 2012 and 2013, and about 70 percent of the players were ages 13 to 24.

As per studies cited by Becerra's office, such games, made as advertisements for a brand, can negatively affect children's desire for healthy food.

Immediately after filing the complaint, Gatorade reached the settlement and promised not to badmouth water. The company admitted no wrongdoing.

Gatorade, a unit of Stokely-Van Camp, which is owned by PepsiCo., also agreed not to make other games that give wrong impression about water.

In response, Gatorade noted that it has nothing against water. The company spokeswoman Katie Vidaillet reportedly said in an email, "The mobile game, Bolt!, was designed to highlight the unique role and benefits of sports drinks in supporting athletic performance. We recognize the role water plays in overall health and wellness, and offer our consumers great options."

by RTT Staff Writer

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