Sunday, October 18, 2009

Can You Trust Food Labels?

The GAO Cites FDA Ineffectiveness and Poor Oversight of Food Labeling

You cannot always trust what you see on a food label on a packaged processed food when it comes to the nutrition content. One government agency is starting to get things moving though. The GAO – Government Accountability Office released a report citing the FDA’s ineffective and poor oversight of food labeling for domestic and international products. According to the report the FDA has failed in its duties and has not conducted routine random sampling to test the accuracy of Nutrition Facts labels since 1990 and the agency only conducted very limited non-random nutrition samples of products whose labels were suspected of being labeled inaccurate. "These findings by the GAO seem to point to another example of how FDA mismanagement is failing consumers. As Congress moves toward reforming FDA's food safety responsibilities, this is another area that warrants close examination and potentially a major overhaul.” Says, Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee in charge of the FDA budget. The Center for Science in The Public Interest (CSPI) regularly files formal complaints with the FDA urging it to stop misleading labeling claims, but the labeling violations have often continued unabated. Recent deceptive claims include:

* Capri Sun beverages were labeled as “All Natural” even though they were made with high-fructose corn syrup (when contacted by CSPI, the company said it was modifying the label). The FDA has failed to formally define the term.

* Gerber Graduates for Toddlers Fruit Juice Snacks depicted fruits on the label and suggested that the product is made from fruit. But the product’s predominant ingredients are corn syrup and sugar. CSPI, but not the FDA, is challenging the claim in federal court.

* Kraft’s Crystal Light Immunity Berry Pomegranate drink falsely claimed that its vitamins A, C, and E will “help maintain a healthy immune system.” The FDA said it would consider placing the issue on its work plan for next year.

* Mars Cocoa Via Brand Heart Healthy Snacks claimed that it “Promotes a healthy heart”, and "reduces" bad cholesterol.” The chocolate candy contains significant amounts of saturated fat, which can raise bad cholesterol. The company has ignored an FDA warning to halt the claim, and the agency has failed to follow-up its demands in court.

* Nestle Crunch Ice Cream Bars have claimed “0g Trans Fat,” but contain 11 grams of saturated fat, which also raises cholesterol levels. The FDA failed to act on a CSPI complaint over the issue.

* Thomas’ Hearty Grains Double Fiber Honey Wheat Muffins label has boasted that the product is “made with whole grain,” but the predominant ingredient is white flour. The FDA issued a weak policy pronouncement on the issue, but has taken no enforcement action.

Another report released this month states that the FDA and USDA are not "kept in the loop" regarding imported foods further exacerbating an already dysfunctional food supply system that is increasingly reliant on food imports to sustain our food supply economy. So, the bottom line here is to be wary but eat smart.

GAO Report On Food Labeling
CSPI Report on Accuracy and Truthfullness In Food Labeling


Brian, the old man said...

That's terrible! I have often wondered how this is regulated. Companies are in the business to make a profit and if they can make false claims and get away with it they will continue to do so. Thanks for the information. Excellent article as always. Have a good weekend.

Electronic Medical Records said...

I think we can trust the labels is filled with marketing gimmics and sugar coated words really.

TC said...

It is best to be conscientious and informed when it comes to your health and the food you consume.