FDA Cracks Down on Food Health Claims

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publicized a press release yesterday indicating it has sent 17 warning letters to food manufacturers for misleading health claims. It also shared a chart that indicated which companies, products and claims/labels were in voilation. This is reportedly the biggest action the agency has taken in the last 10 years. Some of the letter recipients may surprise you. They surprised us.

The FDA has indicated by this action that, not only will it not tolerate misleading health claims on products (marketers and communicators in this realm need to be careful), but also that it is pursuing a unified front-of-pack nutrition labeling stystem and is planning to release draft guidance that will recommend criteria required for foods to make “dietary guidance statements” (FDA example: “Eat 2 cups of fruit a day for good health”).

Right now, front-of-pack labeling on foods is voluntary. Any company/organization that wishes to use symbols, nutrition information or scores meant to show at-a-glance indicators of nutritional quality of a food can do so. Just glance around the supermarket and it’s hard not to see all of the competing systems. However, this may not be for long, as FDA is looking at a single system, possibly something like the traffic light system in the UK.


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