Thursday, May 21, 2009

FDA Strictly Enforces Label Laws

Last week, the FDA took issue with a health claim that is posted on boxes of Cheerios. The product claims it can "lower cholesterol levels", a feat that may be possible with the oat flour used to make the cereal. But the FDA says the way this claim is worded is in serious violation of the codes of the law.

According to certain sections of the code, the claims that Cheerios can treat and prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol (specifically "by 4% in six weeks") means it is being marketed as a drug. And drugs on the market must be submitted for extensive studies before the FDA allows them on the market.

The agency reminds General Mills that they are allowed to promote the cereal by saying "diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber-containing fruit, vegetable, and grain products may reduce the risk of heart disease" and that Cheerios can be a part of the healthy diet that meets these recommendations. They go on to quote other claims made regarding cancer prevention that are not written as the laws specify they must be, and warn the company that failure to promptly correct the violations may result in enforcement action without further notice. (Enforcement action may include seizure of products and/or injunction against the manufacturers and distributors of violative products).

For anyone who questions what to believe on food labels, be assured that the FDA is on the ball! Claims are routinely monitored and companies are warned when a violation has occurred when products are under the FDA's auspices. Remember that only food and drugs are covered by the FDA laws, and herbal supplements have exempted themselves from the eyes of the regulatory agencies--so take heed when reading labels of supplements, vitamins, and herbs that claim to improve any health conditions.

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