September 8, 2010

FDA Warns 2 Companies On False Green Tea Claims

The Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings to the makers of Canada Dry ginger ale and Lipton tea for making nutritional claims about their green tea-flavored drinks that have not been proven, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

In a written warning issued August 30, the FDA took issue with the labeling of Canada Dry Sparkling Green Tea Ginger Ale. The agency issued a similar warning to Unilever Inc. on August 23. That company makes Lipton Green Tea.

Food companies have been increasingly adding vitamins and nutrients to their products to make them more appealing to health-conscious consumers. But the FDA letter to the makers of Canada Dry -- Dr Pepper Snapple Group -- states that the agency "does not consider it appropriate to fortify snack foods such as carbonated beverages."

The agency also states that the soft drink does not meet federal requirements to carry the claim that the drink is "enhanced with 200 mg of antioxidants from green tea and vitamin C." According to FDA rules, the ingredients in Canada Dry's product do not carry any nutrients recognized with antioxidant activity.

The FDA letter to Unilever focuses on the issue of the company's website that mentions four studies that showed a cholesterol-lowering effect with tea. According to the agency, the labeling is misleading because it suggests Lipton tea is designed to treat or prevent diseases. The agency also cited that Lipton Green Tea makes false antioxidant claims.

The FDA asked executives from both companies to respond to the citations within 15 days and to outline their plans for addressing the issues.

A spokesman for Dr Pepper Snapple Group said in a statement the company is looking forward to working with the FDA to resolve the issues.

Unilever issued a similar response to FDA citations.

The market for nutrient-enriched beverages has boomed into a multibillion dollar business that includes everything from calcium-enhanced orange juice to energy drinks containing ginseng and waters enhanced with vitamins and minerals.

The FDA began cracking down on food companies in recent years, due to unsubstantiated claims of benefits on many products.

The FDA endorses many foods with health claims, but only after government researchers have verified that the products help prevent actual disease. Food containing oats, for example, can carry the FDA-approved claim, "may reduce risk of heart disease."

The FDA regularly issues warnings to companies that do not follow guidelines and regulations in their product labeling. Warning letters are not legally binding, but the FDA can take companies to court if they are ignored.


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