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FDA cracks down on misleading food labels

March 4, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The FDA slapped 17 food manufacturers with warning letters on Tuesday saying the claim made on their labels are misleading and in some cases, just plain false. Consumers rely on labels to be accurate but the FDA is putting 17 food companies on notice, for using labels they say are misleading and need to change. These labels are included on products from frozen fish to juice to walnuts.

"We hope that this is the start of a battle that will lead to a war that will end essentially deceptive food labeling," said attorney Bruce Silverglade, Center for Science in the Public Interest.

This is something that shoppers are paying attention to, including the agency's warning to the makers of these products like Nestle's Drumsticks and Gorton's Fish Fillets. The FDA took issue with labels emphasizing zero trans fats as those prominent labels on the front do not mention the products do contain unhealthy saturated fat, although it is listed on the back.

The makers of Juicy Juice got a warning for labels claiming to have 100 percent juice, but the FDA says the claim isn't true, since it's actually juice blends, with added flavors. Other products were called out for labels with claims that go beyond FDA approved definitions.

"The companies try to get around the rules by using vague terminology such as, 'Helps supports your immune system' or 'Heart healthy.' These claims really are not reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration and are confusing to consumers," said Silverglade.

It is confusing, even for the most label-conscious.

"I would say, 'Buyer beware,'" said shopper Kerri. "If you can't trust the label, then what can you do?"

What you can do is go beyond that enticing verbiage on the front of the box and turn the product to the nutrition facts. Scan to see how much saturated fat, sodium, sugar and other things you might want to avoid as well as scouring the ingredient list for red flags such as partially hydrogenated oil, which is an alias for trans fat.