The agency accused the companies of pumping up the nutritional claims of their products or masking contents such as unhealthy fats. The letters went out to the makers of a broad range of products, including Gerber baby food, Nestlé Juicy Juice, Dreyer’s ice cream, POM Wonderful pomegranate juice and Gorton’s fish fillets.
“The FDA is not merely firing a shot across the bow; it is declaring war on misleading food labelling,” said Bruce A Silverglade, director of legal affairs of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group that had pushed for stricter rules.
The warning letters followed commitments last autumn by the FDA. commissioner, Margaret A Hamburg, who has made a priority of improving information for consumers on food packages.
Asked about the warning letters, Scott Faber, vice president for federal affairs at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, pointed to an open letter from Dr Hamburg to the industry in which she pledged cooperation with food manufacturers in improving labelling.
“What’s significant is that Commissioner Hamburg took the extra step of reinforcing her commitment to work with industry to develop a clear, science-based labelling system that is effective with consumers,” Mr Faber said. The letters, sent last month but just made public, addressed a range of violations.
Several products were singled out for labels that boasted prominently that they contained no trans fat, even though they had high levels of saturated fat. The products included Gorton’s Fish Fillets, Spectrum Organic All Vegetable Shortening and two products from Dreyer’s, the Dibs bite-size ice cream snacks and the vanilla-fudge Drumsticks. According to Dreyer’s, the Dibs contain 17 grams of saturated fat per serving. Federal guidelines recommend that a person not consume more than 20 grams in a day.
In the case of POM pomegranate juice, the agency said that the company’s website, which is listed on its bottles, carried misleading claims that the juice could prevent or cure diseases like hypertension, diabetes and cancer. Such claims are not allowed on food products and would require that the juice be treated, in regulatory terms, as a drug, according to the letter sent to the company.
POM said that “all statements made in connection with POM products are true” and supported by scientific research, adding: “We are currently reviewing the FDA’s concerns and, as strong advocates of honest labelling and fair advertising, we are looking forward to working with the agency to resolve this matter.”
The FDA said that the labels of some Nestlé Juicy Juice products implied they were primarily made of a single juice, like orange or tangerine, rather than a flavoured blend of juices. Nestlé, which owns Juicy Juice, said that it believed its labels complied with regulations but that it was working with the FDA. Dreyer’s and Gerber, which are also owned by Nestlé, said they were cooperating with the FDA and would not comment beyond that.
Source: New York Times
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