Rockville, MD—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working to erase false claims and mislabeling found on food packaging. The group started this appeal in late October 2009 when they announced they would be regulating the language on the fronts of food packages. 

Warning letters were sent to 17 different food suppliers to notify them of their label violations. Letters were sent to corporations whose packages may have led consumers to believe that the products were healthier than they were in reality. The corporations that received these letters include Nestle USA, Dreyer’s Ice Cream Inc., First Juice and Spectrum Organic Products, Inc.

The Commissioner of Food and Drugs, Margaret Hamburg, M.D., wrote an open letter to the industry, made public on March 3, 2010. In the letter, she addressed the misinformation printed on many food labels, and her plans to remedy the issue. She pointed out specific instances where labels misled the public, which must be rectified.

For instance, some products focus on the fact that they are free of trans-fats while glossing over the high amounts of saturated fats found in the food. Beverages are also targeted; some juice blends are incorrectly labeled as containing only one juice, an issue FDA has been attempting to resolve. Along with misleading consumers about ingredients in this way, some baby food makers have been targeted for displaying nutritional claims based on the needs of adults, which are very different from those of infants.

Another problem that prompted a warning letter was the claim that a product would help prevent diseases like diabetes or cancer. FDA is adamant that products being sold as a food or beverage and not as a drug are not allowed to make such claims. 

In her letter, Hamburg expresses her hopes that these companies will take the initiative to change their labels. She adds that these examples “are not indicative of the labeling practices of the food industry as a whole” and that industry leaders desire a commitment to keeping products healthy and consumers safe.

Hamburg insists that the FDA must work with the producers of these items to guide them in the best ways of keeping their nutritional information clear. With the most prominent labels being those on the front of packages, she believes companies should use them to display nutritional information and to keep consumers’ diets healthy.


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, May 2010