Last October, the Food and Drug Administration wrote a “Dear Industry” letter to the food industry stating that they will be creating standards for front-of-package (FOP) labeling. The letter also said the agency would consider enforcement actions against manufacturers that were in clear violation of established labeling requirements.
Some manufacturers heeded that general warning. Some, apparently, did not. Seventeen food manufacturers, including a few that produce organic products, have been issued warning letters by the FDA about their front-of-package labeling. The FDA believes the labels misrepresent the health benefits of the foods. If the manufacturers do not comply and correct the labels, the food could be pulled from shelves.
In addition to the 17 manufacturers specifically contacted, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg has written another open letter to the food industry. In the letter she cites several examples of the types of misleading claims made on fronts of packages.
- Nutrient-content claims that FDA has authorized for use on foods for adults are not permitted on foods for children under 2. Such claims are highly inappropriate when they appear on food for infants and toddlers because it is well-known that the nutritional needs of the very young are different than those of adults.
- Claims that a product is free of trans fats, which imply that the product is a better choice than products without the claim, can be misleading when a product is high in saturated fat, and especially so when the claim is not accompanied by the required statement referring consumers to the more complete information on the Nutrition Facts panel.
- Products that claim to treat or mitigate disease are considered to be drugs and must meet the regulatory requirements for drugs, including the requirement to prove that the product is safe and effective for its intended use.
- Misleading “healthy” claims continue to appear on foods that do not meet the long- and well-established definition for use of that term.
- Juice products that mislead consumers into believing they consist entirely of a single juice are still on the market. Despite numerous admonitions from FDA over the years, we continue to see juice blends being inaccurately labeled as single-juice products.
Related on MNN:
- FDA goes after front of package labeling
- Making over the nutrition facts label
- Lean Cuisine: Not as lean as its packaging
- Taking Hot Pockets to task with an artist's view of the nutrition label
MNN homepage photo: Russel A. Daniels/AP file photo