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Food by VICE

Arizona Sued for Falsely Claiming That Its Green Tea Contains Ginseng

The best-selling green tea drink has no “detectable” amount of ginseng, laboratory tests concluded.

by Bettina Makalintal
Apr 25 2019, 2:00pm

Photo: David Tonelson/Shutterstock.com

Long before I became familiar with tallboys of cheap beer, my main exposure to the tallboy format was giant, unwieldy cans of Arizona Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey, which my friends and I would drink as teenagers while loitering in the mall parking lot. Compared to chugging Monster, sipping Arizona seemed better—it was green tea with honey, after all. And even though I didn’t really know what ginseng was, it gave the drink the appearance of wholesomeness.

According to the brand, the “100% natural green tea” drink has “just the right amount of ginseng,” a root that’s long been used in traditional Chinese medicine for purported health benefits including more energy. According to a new lawsuit, however, that’s actually, well… basically no ginseng. A class-action lawsuit filed earlier this month claims that the drink has no “detectable” amount of ginseng, Newsday reported on Monday, and it’s going after the company for false claims and misrepresentation. MUNCHIES has reached out to Arizona for comment but has not yet received a response.

The lawsuit, which was filed by two customers in New York and Missouri, claims that Arizona represents the drink as having enough ginseng to provide energy when it doesn’t. (The 23-ounce and gallon sized containers do state “ginseng for energy,” it points out.) But after three tests using “incredibly sensitive equipment,” two separate food laboratories found no trace of ginseng, it claims, though those tests did find ginseng in similar drinks from Starbucks and Republic of Tea.

That branding, the lawsuit alleges, misleads customers into paying a “premium price” for the drink. (To be fair, a can of Arizona remains one of the best drink deals in any convenience store.) The lack of ginseng is a financial trick, it adds, since if Arizona “did use enough ginseng [...] to actually provide energy,” the company’s profits would take a hit, since ginseng now commands over $1,000 per pound because of overharvesting. The lawsuit is looking to go to trial to determine “full damages” plus legal fees for the “injured” customers.

I, for one, am shocked that my giant sugary drink doesn’t actually have any health benefits.