In April 2021, Snopes readers searched our site inquiring about whether sports drink brand Gatorade was recently fined $300,000 for telling kids to “avoid water.”
The story is true but dated, and is based on news reports from September 2017.
On Sept. 21, 2017, then California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the “concurrent filing of a complaint and a settlement” on allegations that Gatorade violated state consumer protection laws on a video game app used to promote the sports drink to young people.
A news release from California Attorney General’s Office stated:
The complaint filed by the Attorney General alleges that in the videogame “Bolt!”—made available free of charge on iTunes—Gatorade portrayed its products positively while inaccurately and negatively depicting water as hindering athletic performance. Specifically, users controlled a cartoon version of Olympic Gold Medalist Usain Bolt and ran an endless race to recover gold coins stolen by pirates. Upon touching a Gatorade icon, the Bolt avatar ran faster and the “fuel meter” increased; upon touching a water droplet, he slowed down and the “fuel meter” decreased. Gatorade reinforced this misleading message through the game’s tutorial, which urged users to “Keep Your Performance Level High By Avoiding Water.”
The game drew a young audience, most of whom were age 13 to 24 years old, and was downloaded 30,000 times in California. But it’s no longer available for download, per the news release, which added:
Sports drinks often have a high sugar content. For example, one 32-ounce bottle of a sports drink could have as much as 56 grams of sugar, which is more than double the 25 grams of added sugar that any child or teenager aged 2 to 18 should consume in an entire day, according to the American Heart Association. Despite this, consumers commonly misperceive sports drinks to be beneficial for children in connection with any amount of sports activity. The American Academy of Pediatrics has made clear that children “rarely need sports drinks” and that “water, not sports drinks, should be the principal source of hydration for children and adolescents.”