FDA Fails To Provide Accuracy and Truthfulness in Food Labeling/Oct 13, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) faulted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in preventing false and misleading labeling and said that while food firms and products are on the rise, FDA oversight and enforcement efforts “have not kept pace,” sometimes ignoring instances of false labeling.
The FDA is charged with conducting label reviews when inspecting foreign food firms; last year, it inspected 95 of the tens of thousands of firms overseas and conducted inspections in 11 of the 150 firms that export food to the U.S. The report revealed the FDA has not conducted random sampling to test the accuracy of Nutrition Facts labels since the 1990s, has conducted limited non-random nutrition testing on labels suspected of inaccuracy, and is unable to track its field offices’ enforcement activities. “The findings of this latest GAO investigation that the FDA seems incapable of preventing companies from providing false or misleading information to consumers are very troubling,” said representative Rosa.
DeLauro—Democrat-Connecticut—chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee in charge of the FDA’s budget. "These findings by the GAO seem to point to another example of how FDA mismanagement is failing consumers.” The GAO urged the FDA to “better leverage” resources and develop “detailed information on how new [legal] authorities would help address the shortcomings identified in this report.”
Bruce Silverglade, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) legal affairs director said, “These disturbing findings basically show that the FDA is looking the other way while consumers are being misled.” CSPI senior staff attorney Ilene Ringel Heller added, “It’s astounding that FDA lacks reliable mechanisms to ensure that the Nutrition Facts label is accurate and that health-related claims are trustworthy.” The CSPI regularly files formal complaints with, and seeks the cooperation of, the FDA on such claims; labeling violations continue. Here are some examples:
Kraft Crystal Light Immunity Berry Pomegranate drink: Falsely claims to “help maintain a healthy immune system.” The FDA might consider placing this on its 2009 plan.
Mars Cocoa Via Brand Heart Healthy Snacks: Claims it “Promotes a healthy heart,” and “reduce[s] bad cholesterol,” but is high in saturated fat. Mars has ignored an FDA warning to halt the claim; the FDA has not followed-up.
Land O Lakes “Omega-3 All Natural Eggs”: Claims to be a “good source of heart healthy nutrition,” but contains high cholesterol. The FDA ignored a CSPI complaint.
Nestle Crunch Ice Cream Bars: Claims to contain “0g Trans Fat,” but contain 11 grams of saturated fat. The FDA failed to act on a CSPI complaint.
Capri Sun: Claims to be “All Natural,” but is made with high-fructose corn syrup.
Gerber Graduates for Toddlers Fruit Juice Snacks: Depicts fruit on the label and suggest the snacks are made from fruit. Its main ingredients are corn syrup and sugar. CSPI, not the FDA, is challenging the claim in federal court.
Thomas’ Hearty Grains Double Fiber Honey Wheat Muffins: Claims to be “made with whole grain”; however, is made mostly with white flour. The FDA has taken no enforcement action.