FDA Misleads Congress on Agency Efforts to Halt Deceptive Food Labeling

Agency Routinely Checks for Presence, not Accuracy, of Nutrition Facts Labels

July 18, 2006

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report requested by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees concerning the agency's efforts to stop inaccurate nutrition information and misleading health-related claims on food labels is itself misleading, according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The FDA report implies that agency inspectors checked more than 28,000 food labels for inaccurate nutrition information within a recent 14 month period when in reality, the inspectors merely checked to see whether a Nutrition Facts panel was present on the label, not whether it was accurate.

"The FDA’s report to Congress demonstrates that the specific issues of concern to the Committee—the accuracy of Nutrition Facts labels and misleading health-related claims that make it difficult for Americans to comply with federal dietary advice--have been the casualty of not only budget cuts, but a lack of commitment on the part of the Agency to fulfill its mission," wrote CSPI legal director Bruce Silverglade to the Congressional committees responsible for FDA appropriations. "The FDA should be cracking down on claims for bogus 'whole wheat' products, deceptive '0 trans fat' claims, inaccurate 'Nutrition Facts' labels, and misleading statements like 'made with real fruit' (when the product contains only fruit flavors), not just eyeballing labels to make sure that information is printed in the required format."

"The FDA’s report obfuscates the Agency's abdication of its responsibility to ensure honest food labeling by touting irrelevant statistics concerning routine Agency inspection activities. The FDA has been less than forthright with Congress," said CSPI senior staff attorney Ilene Ringel Heller.

CSPI urged the Congressional committees to direct the FDA to: (1) conduct supermarket sweeps to stop misleading health-related claims; (2) systematically test the accuracy of Nutrition Facts labels; (3) give labeling enforcement higher priority during inspections of manufacturing facilities and distribution facilities; (4) put a stop to marketplace fads before they get out of hand; and (5) increase funding to the FDA division responsible for food labeling.

CSPI sent appropriators in Congress a detailed rebuttal of the FDA's report.


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