Industry News | March 3, 2010

CSPI Backs FDA on Food Label Fight—Kind Of

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Representatives for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) praised the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) during a conference call Wednesday for the 16 warning letters it sent to food companies for false or misleading label claims.

However, the same representatives said that the FDA has more work to do to crack down on false label claims.

Michael Jacobson, executive director of the CSPI, and Bruce Silverglade, director of legal affairs for the CSPI, said they hoped the letters would persuade the industry to “clean up its act,” and that the letters were “just the tip of the iceberg.”

“We hope today’s actions send a signal to the entire food industry that misleading health-related claims on food labels are no longer going to be tolerated,” Silverglade said during the conference.

Silverglade called the actions by the FDA a “once-in-a-generation” event, noting that the last time the FDA pursued food labeling reform was in the early 1990s.

“Not since those days have we seen actions of this magnitude by the FDA,” Silverglade said. “The agency has clearly recognized that the food label is an essential weapon in the toolbox against diet-related disease, and the [Obama] Administration has placed childhood obesity and generally improving the health of Americans at the top of its agenda.”

Both Jacobson and Silverglade noted that merely sending letters to guilty companies would not fully address the problem at hand.

“There’s certainly a lot of work the agency needs to look at in addition to the issues that it addressed today,” Silverglade said.

“On the issues the agency did address today, the FDA needs to institutionalize these warning letters through regulations that make it crystal clear to companies what the law is.”

“While case-by-case enforcement actions are always useful and certainly should send a signal to the entire industry, the best approach we feel is to codify these policies into written regulation so they apply to all companies, not just the ones that were hit by a warning letter today,” Silverglade said.

By Sam Oches

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