FDA Takes on Misleading Food Label Claims

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has written letters warning 17 food manufacturers to correct <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/other_topics">misleading label claims. Among the foods cited by the letters were Gerber baby food, Juicy Juice, Dreyer’s ice cream, POM pomegranate juice and Gorton’s fish fillets.

In all, 22 food items were cited by the FDA letters for violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The action follows an October 2009 statement by Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret Hamburg, M.D., encouraging companies to review their labeling to ensure that they were in compliance with FDA regulations, and were truthful and not misleading. The violations cited in the warning letters include unauthorized health claims, unauthorized nutrient content claims, and the unauthorized use of terms such as “healthy,” and others that have strict, regulatory definitions.

Several foods were cited for front panels touting that they contained no trans fats, but failing to disclose high levels of saturated fats and total fats. These products include Gorton’s Fish Fillets and Mrs. Smith’s Coconut Custard Pie, among others. The FDA faulted the label of Juicy Juice Brain Development Fruit Juice Beverage (Apple) for claims such as “no sugar added,” which are not allowed on products intended for children under 2. The agency also cited the labels of Juicy Juice All-Natural 100% Juice Orange Tangerine and Juicy Juice All-Natural 100% Juice Grape for implying t the products are 100% juice when they are actually juice blends with added flavors. A complete list of the firms and foods cited can be found here.

Companies that received warning letters have 15 business days to inform the FDA of the steps they will take to correct their labeling.

In an open letter to Industry dated March 3, 2010, Dr. Hamburg underscored the importance of providing nutrition information that consumers could rely on.

“Today, ready access to reliable information about the calorie and nutrient content of food is even more important, given the prevalence of obesity and diet-related diseases in the United States,” Dr. Hamburg said in the letter. She also expressed her hope that the warning letters would clarify the FDA’s expectations for food manufacturers as they review their current labeling.

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