The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Phone: 202-332-9110

CSPI Urges FDA Crackdown on False & Misleading Food Labeling

New Report Makes Case for Ending Food Labeling Chaos


Can orange juice really help prevent or treat arthritis? That's the
implication on the label of a Minute Maid orange juice fortified with
glucosamine hydrochloride "designed to help protect healthy joints."
And it's exactly the kind of misleading health claim that the Center
for Science in the Public Interest wants the federal government to
stop. Today the group is sending the Food and Drug Administration a 158-page report that documents some of the most egregious examples of false claims, ingredient obfuscations, and other labeling shenanigans.

under the Obama Administration the FDA is sending more warning letters
to food manufacturers about misleading labeling, many major companies,
including Coca-Cola, Kellogg, Kraft, General Mills, and Nestle,
continue to confuse or defraud consumers about the health effects,
ingredients, or "natural"-ness of their products. Some notable
offenders include:

Kellogg: On labels for Smart Start Strawberry Oat Bites
cereal, the company deliberately misreads a report from the Institute
of Medicine to claim, falsely, that consumers can eat 125 grams-more
than half a cup-of added sugars per day. CSPI says FDA should establish
a Daily Value for added sugars, require its disclosure on Nutrition
Facts panels, and provide definitions for terms such as "low sugar."

Nestle: Labels for the company's Carnation Instant Breakfast
misleadingly claim that its antioxidants "help support the immune
system." While it is true that serious deficiencies in vitamins A, C,
and E and other antioxidants can lead to serious health problems,
consuming this or other products that make this common claim won't help
ward off colds, the flu, or other maladies.

Kashi: A Kellogg-owned brand, Kashi falsely claims that the green tea in its Heart to Heart Instant Oatmeal
will "support healthy arteries." The FDA does have a so-called
qualified health claim for green tea that relates to cancer but has not
agreed that green tea can protect arteries or fend off heart disease.

Glaceau: The Coca-Cola-owned product bears a
confusing double-column Nutrition Facts label that gives the impression
that a 20-ounce bottle of VitaminWater contains multiple
servings. Yet the company knows full well that the product is typically
consumed by one person on a single occasion, delivering 125 calories,
not the 50 in a "serving." CSPI says the dual-column format should be

Edy's: Labels for Dibs Bite Sized Snacks
boast "0g trans fat!"-giving the impression that the product is
heart-healthy. Yet a serving of this ice cream snack has 16 grams of
saturated fat-80 percent of the daily value. CSPI says the FDA should
prohibit companies from boasting of "0 grams trans" on foods with more
than 1 gram of saturated fat per serving. FDA already has similar
limits on "cholesterol free" and "healthy" claims.

Thomas': Labels for Thomas' Hearty Grains English Muffins
claim that the food is "made with the goodness of whole grain" and
"made with whole grains." Yet the primary ingredient is "unbleached
enriched wheat flour," meaning white flour. The product has more water
than whole wheat flour, which is the third ingredient.

Gerber: Labels for Gerber Graduates Juice Treats-a
product intended for pre-schoolers-picture an abundance of fruit:
oranges, grapes, peaches, cherries, pineapple, and raspberries. Yet
there is no cherry, orange, or pineapple in the product, and less than
2 percent is raspberry and apple juice concentrate. The main
ingredients are corn syrup and sugar, providing 17 grams-or about four
teaspoons-of refined sugars per serving.

The main ingredients are corn syrup and sugar, not the abundance of
fruit shown on the package, providing 17 grams-or about four
teaspoons-of refined sugars per serving.

Minute Maid: The words "all natural" appear on Minute Maid's Cranberry Apple Cocktail.
Yet the product contains added citric acid-meaning citric acid that
didn't occur naturally in the juice. FDA has long held that adding
citric acid disqualifies a company from claiming the food is all
natural. This product also contains high-fructose corn syrup-the end
result of a highly complex series of chemical changes whereby corn
starch is converted to glucose and fructose. FDA should disallow "all
natural" claims on food that contain HFCS, according to CSPI.

"For far too long, some of the world's biggest food
manufacturers have designed their labels either to exaggerate the
amount of healthy ingredients, or to imply that the food has magical,
drug-like qualities that could prevent or treat various health
problems," said CSPI legal affairs director Bruce Silverglade. "The
Bush Administration gave manufacturers more and more license to
deceive. But the party's over-or at least it should be."

In May, the FDA instructed
General Mills to drop exaggerated heart disease and cancer claims on
labels and its web site for its Cheerios cereal. And in October, FDA
expressed concern over the industry-wide Smart Choices
front-of-packaging labeling program. Both moves were praised by CSPI
and were seen as a sign that the agency will more aggressively police
food labeling.

wants the agency to prohibit qualified health claims for foods. Unlike
"health claims," which must meet a "significant scientific agreement"
standard, qualified health claims include disclaimers explaining that
the scientific evidence is uncertain. CSPI also wants the FDA and the
U.S. Department of Agriculture to prohibit misleading
"structure/function" claims that a given food will "support" or
"maintain" healthy immune systems, joints, vision, and so on. Consumers
simply can't distinguish between stringently regulated health claims,
which require FDA approval, and structure/function claims, which don't,
according to CSPI.

"Consumers need honest labeling so they can spend their
food dollars wisely and avoid diet-related disease," said CSPI senior
staff attorney Ilene Ringel Heller, co-author of the report. "Companies
should market their foods without resorting to the deceit and
dishonesty that's so common today. And, if they don't, the FDA should
make them."

Since 1971, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been a strong advocate for nutrition and health, food safety, alcohol policy, and sound science.