Misleading food labels
7 Healthcast: Misleading food labels
Stroll down the aisle of just about any grocery store in America, and you'll find what appears to be the promised land for optimal health -- whole grains! Heart-healthy Omega-3s! Foods that fuel your immune system!
"You can't say that it cures or treats a disease, but as of right now, they are allowed to make broad general statements," said Lisa Cimperman, a clinical dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.
A new survey from the Food and Drug Administration finds consumers are paying attention, and many say they read those food labels. Yet the majority don't necessarily believe them.
Judging from more than 16 warning letters sent to food manufacturers from the FDA, the public may be justified in its skepticism.
The letters were issued in late February to a variety of manufacturers of baby food, juices, nuts and other products, claiming their labels are either misleading or make unauthorized health claims.
"If there is solid data behind these claims, that's not a problem. Unfortunately, you cannot give solid scientific information on a label," said Cimperman.
Diamond Foods received such a letter for claims related to its walnut products.
There's plenty of science that shows walnuts are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.
But the FDA says the company went too far when it stated on its Web site that Omega-3s have been shown to lower cholesterol, protect against heart disease and even fight depression.
Only FDA-approved medicines can make such claims.
In a statement, a representative for Diamond Foods said the company expects to make the necessary changes and looks forward to working with the FDA.
The FDA also sent warning letters to Beech-nut, Gorton's, Nestle and other manufacturers related to health claims.
A representative for Beech-Nut says the company "stands behind its commitment to advancing nutrition for infants and toddlers with its high-quality food products," and says they are "working with the FDA to take the appropriate next steps regarding its food labeling compliances."
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