CSPI Urges FDA to Halt Misleading Non-genetically Engineered Food-label Claims|
(Washington) The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) today asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take enforcement action against seven food manufacturers whose product labels deceive consumers with false or misleading claims about the absence of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.
CSPIs complaint concerns Polaners All Fruit Spreads, Earths Best Baby Foods, Healthy Times Oatmeal with Banana Cereal, Vans Organic Waffles, Spectrum Canola Oil, Bearitos Tortilla Chips, and Erewhon Wheat Flakes. CSPI is not concerned about the quality or safety of the products, but charges that their labels violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and FDAs guidance about labeling foods for GE content. Some examples include:
Consumers want information about GE ingredients in their foods, but that information should be presented in an accurate and non-disparaging manner, said Gregory Jaffe, co-director of CSPIs Biotechnology Project. These labels bear false or misleading statements such as No GMOs that take unfair advantage of consumer concerns and lack of knowledge about GE crops. The labels imply that the absence of GE ingredients makes the products superior, when that is not the case. FDA, the American Medical Association, and many other health organizations have determined that GE crops are as safe to eat as traditionally bred crops. In fact, traditionally bred crops may be treated with more pesticides, or more dangerous pesticides than their bioengineered counterparts.
Although CSPI favors labeling of GE ingredients, these seven products show that manufacturers are taking advantage of consumers with false and misleading label statements, added Jaffe.
CSPI recently conducted a national opinion poll that found that labels stating GEor non-GE would influence many consumers perceptions and preferences. About 31% of consumers said that products labeled GE were not as safe as non-GE foods. A similar percentage said that foods labeled does not contain genetically engineered ingredients were better than unlabeled foods. Only about 10% said that the GE-labeled product was safer or better. (33% to 42% said that GE and non-GE foods were just as safe or good).
Given many consumers innate skepticism of any new technology, CSPI said that manufacturers must be careful not to mislead consumers. FDA needs to send a clear message to manufacturers that label statements need to be both accurate and not imply superiority, added Jaffe. Anticipating the day when biotechnology is used to provide consumer benefits, CSPIs letter also urged the FDA to guard against deceptive claims about such benefits. The FDA should nip this growing problem in the bud.