The U.S. Food and Drug Administration fired off letters warning of deceptive food labeling to 17 food companies yesterday, including one to a Los Angeles company that claims that its pomegranate juice can improve erectile function.
Six California firms were singled out in the letter-writing blitz, including Sacramento-based Blue Diamond almond sellers, Oakland-based Dreyer’s Ice Cream and Yuba City-based Sunsweet Growers.
In a warning letter to the makers of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, the FDA noted that the company’s Web site contains claims about the juice providing benefits to those with plaque build-up in blood vessels, prostate cancer and erectile disfunction.
The FDA, its letter suggests, is skeptical:
Your POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice and POMx products are offered for conditions that are not amenable to self-diagnosis and treatment by individuals who are not medical practitioners; therefore, adequate directions for use cannot be written so that a layperson can use these drugs safely for their intended purposes. Thus, your products are misbranded….
The FDA took exception with Dreyers over nutrient claims about its Dibs Bite Sized Ice Cream Snacks and Drumstick ice cream cones, which boast having “no trans fat.”
Why? Because those treats, in fact, contain a whole lot of fat, with 19 grams for the Drumsticks and 28 grams for the Bites. Instead of advertising "no trans fat," the ice cream maker should have printed an alert for customers to “see nutrition information for fat and saturated fat content," the FDA noted.
Petaluma-based Spectrum Organics was also caught in the warning dragnet over claims on its organic all-vegetable shortening. And Yuba City-based Sunsweet Growers was warned about antioxidant claims on its dried fruit blend.
In an open letter to the food industry, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg signaled that she was serious about the truth-in-advertising lapses her agency identified.
In my conversations with industry leaders, I sense a strong desire within the industry for a level playing field and a commitment to producing safe, healthy products. That reinforces my belief that FDA should provide as clear and consistent guidance as possible about food labeling claims and nutrition information in general, and specifically about how the growing use of front-of-pack calorie and nutrient information can best help consumers construct healthy diets.
Hamburg's agency sent the letters on Feb. 22 and gave the companies 15 days to explain how they will fix the identified lapses.