FDA Working on Regulations for Food Label Claims

<"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/other_topics">Misleading food labels are not only illegal, they have had a hand in the growing problem of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in the United States due false claims and confusing nutritional information. The problem has left Americans bewildered at the grocery and reliant on advertising for food purchase and consumption decisions.

“Most people get their nutrition information from food marketers, and that information is not exactly unbiased,” said Marion Nestle, a nutritionist at New York University, who recently spoke at the New York Academy of Sciences on diet and food politics, quoted LifeSciences.com.

For instance, says LifeScience.com, so-called “low fat” and “heart healthy” foods or foods labeled as “0 grams trans fat,” could indeed be low fat, but could also contain copious amounts of sugar and corn syrup or other fats to increase palatability, but which hinder the healthfulness of the product. But, notes LifeScience.com, Americans are seeking better information on what they should be eating. “The public is demonstrably confused about what to eat,” said Nestle, quoted LifeSciences.com.

This, an excess of a 30-percent adult obesity rate in the U.S., and labeling schemes, to name a few, have prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review front-of-package labeling with an eye toward creating a meaningful standard set of mandates for what manufacturers can state on food labels, said LifeSciences.com. “We had noticed a real proliferation of these front-of-package symbols, and noticed that there were a lot of different ones,” said Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokesperson, quoted LifeSciences.com. “And there didn’t seem to be any rule of thumb or real consistency for consumers to be able to depend on,” DeLancey added.

Most recently, we wrote that the FDA sent warning letters to 17 food makers, advising them to correct misleading label claims. Among the foods cited 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 for violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. That action followed an October 2009 statement by Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret Hamburg, M.D., encouraging companies to review product labeling to ensure compliance with FDA regulations, and that statements were truthful and not misleading.

The violations included unauthorized health claims, unauthorized nutrient content claims, and the unauthorized use of terms such as “healthy,” and others that have strict, regulatory definitions. A complete list of the firms and foods cited can be found at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/LabelingNutrition/ucm202784.htm.

Last year, said LifeSciences.com, The New York Times wrote about the Smart Choices program, a collaborative and voluntary labeling program meant to highlight foods deemed healthy choices. When the labeling appeared on a box of Fruit Loops and other “less-than-healthy” products, the Smart Choice program came under fire with the FDA stepping in and saying it would start reviewing this and other food labeling schemes; Smart Choices voluntarily suspended pending agency review, reported LifeSciences.com.

The U.S. Institute of Medicine (IOM)—an impartial nongovernmental entity—is also reviewing some schemes and studies and both it and the FDA’s study are expected later this year, said LifeChoices.com.

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