FDA Faults Green Tea Claims

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just warned the makers of two green tea drinks to discontinue its <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/consumer_news">unauthorized nutrient claims, said the LA Times, which noted that this is another in the agency’s efforts to put an end to misleading food labeling.

The FDA’s warning to the Dr Pepper Snapple Group indicated that the firm’s Canada Dry Sparkling Green Tea Ginger Ale bears claims to be “enhanced” with antioxidants, said the LA Times. But, because the drink is carbonated and classified as a snack food, it cannot bear claims to be nutritionally fortified, the FDA said, wrote the LA Times. The letter also said that ingredients claiming to contain antioxidants “are not nutrients with recognized antioxidant activity,” quoted the LA Times.

Late last year we wrote that the FDA notified about 30 manufacturers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages that it intended to look into the safety and legality of their products. Most recently, Democratic New York Senator Charles Schumer asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate how flavored, caffeinated alcoholic beverages are marketed, specifically those that appear to be geared to underage consumers, said The Associated Press (AP) previously.

The FDA also just said that a website for Unilever Inc.’s Lipton Green Tea 100% Naturally Decaffeinated made a health claim in which it linked drinking the product with lower cholesterol for those at risk for cardiac. This claim, said the FDA changes the product’s classification to that of a drug, which mandates it prove safety and efficacy, noted the LA Times. Claims that the tea contains antioxidants also impact other rules.

This March, said the LA Times, the FDA sent 17 warning letters to food makers regarding misleading nutrition and health benefit information regarding 22 products. “We are pleased to see the agency becoming more active on other misleading claims,” said Bruce Silverglade, quoted the LA Times. Silverglade is the legal director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI), an advocate for appropriate labeling which has long been urging the FDA to enforce appropriate labeling, explained the LA Times.

In Schumer’s earlier letter to FTC chairman, Jon Leibowitz, he wrote that the colorful cans containing the controversial drinks are meant to confuse parents and police with labeling that looks like labeling on similar nonalcoholic drinks, wrote the AP previously. Citing drinks such as Joose and Four Loko, Senator Schumer pointed out that information on the alcohol content of about 12 percent are hidden in tiny print. The alcohol content in these drinks is, by the way, about double that found in beer, wrote the AP.

As we’ve previously written, under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, a substance intentionally added to food is deemed “unsafe” and is unlawful unless its particular use has been approved by FDA regulation, the substance is subject to a prior sanction, or the substance is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). When the agency has not approved the use of a substance in a beverage, such beverages can be lawfully marketed only if their use is subject to a prior sanction or is GRAS. For a substance to be GRAS, there must be evidence of its safety at the levels used and a basis to conclude that this evidence is generally known and accepted by qualified experts.

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