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FDA: Labels Misleading on Major Food Brands

Nestle, POM, and Other Firms Cited for Misleading Food Labels

By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

March 3, 2010 -- The FDA today warned 17 food makers -- including POM Nestle -- that their "misleading" product labels violate federal law.

The warning letters say the firms face having their products pulled from grocery shelves if they don't make changes within 15 days.

It's a new get-tough policy, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg suggested in an open letter to the food industry.

"We continue to see products marketed with labeling that violates established labeling standards," Hamburg wrote. "To address these concerns, FDA is notifying a number of manufacturers that their labels are in violation of the law and subject to legal proceedings to remove misbranded products from the marketplace."

The FDA says the 17 cited firms committed different kinds of violations:

  • Claims that the food products treat or mitigate disease. Such claims mean the food is actually an unapproved new drug, the FDA says.
  • Misleading labels on blended juice products that make them appear to be made entirely from a single juice.
  • "Healthy" claims that do not meet established standards for use of the term.
  • Claims that a product is free of trans fats on products high in unhealthy saturated fats.
  • Nutrient claims on foods for children under age 2 that are approved only for use on foods for adults.

The 17 firms cited, and the products with "misleading" labels, are:

  • Beech-nut: Beech-Nut Good Morning Whole Grain Oatmeal with Mixed Fruit (nutrient claims on products for small children)
  • Diamond Food Inc.: Diamond Shelled Walnuts (unauthorized health claims)
  • Dreyers Grand Ice Cream Inc.: Nestle Drumstick Classic Vanilla Fudge and Dreyer's Dibs Bite Sized Ice Cream Snacks Vanilla Ice Cream (unsupported nutrient claim; trans-fat-free claim on high saturated-fat product)
  • First Juice Inc.: Organic Fruit and Veggie Juice Beverage products (unauthorized nutrient and health claims)
  • Fleminger Inc.: TeaForHealth green tea products (promoted for conditions that cause the products to be drugs)
  • Gorton's Inc.: Gorton's Beer Batter Crispy Battered Fish Fillets (trans-fat free claim on high-saturated-fat product)
  • Ken's Foods Inc.: Healthy Options Parmesan & Peppercorn, Sweet Vidalia Onion Vinaigrette, and Raspberry Walnut Dressing (unauthorized health claims; low-fat claims on product high in fats)
  • Nature's Path Foods Inc.: Organic Flax Plus Multigrain Cereal (unapproved nutrient claim)
  • Nestle USA: several Juicy Juice products (misleading claims of juice content; nutrient claims on products for small children)
  • PBM Products: some Parent's Choice cereal products (nutrient claims on products for small children)
  • Pompeian: Pompeian Imported Extra Light Olive Oil ("light" claim for product high in fat; unsupported nutrient claim)
  • POM Wonderful: POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice and POMx products (promoted for conditions that cause the products to be drugs)
  • Redco Foods: Salada Naturally Decaffeinated Green Tea (promoted for conditions that cause the product to be a drug)
  • Schwan's Consumer Brands: Mrs. Smith's Classic Coconut Custard Pie (trans-fat-free claim on product high in saturated fat)
  • Spectrum Organic Products Inc.: Organic All Vegetable Shortening (cholesterol-free claim on product high in fats)
  • Sunsweet Growers: Sunsweet Antioxidant Blend dried fruit mix (unapproved nutrient claim)
  • Want Want Foods: Baby Mum-Mum Original Selected Superior Rice Rusks (nutrient claim on product for small children)

The consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which has lobbied the FDA to toughen food-label standards, hailed the FDA action in a news conference.

"This is a once-in-a-generation event," said Bruce Silverglade, CSPI legal affairs director. "Not since the early 1990s have we seen FDA actions of this magnitude."

The FDA today also released the results of a survey showing that more than half of all U.S. adults say they "often" read a label the first time they buy a product. It's the first time in the survey's 10-year history that most adult said they read food labels.

SOURCES: News releases, FDA.

FDA, warning letters to firms, March 3, 2010.

FDA, Open Letter to Industry from Dr. Hamburg, March 3, 2010.

Center for Science in the Public Interest, news teleconference, March 3, 2010.

Bruce Silverglade, legal affairs director, Center for Science in the Public Interest.

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