FDA Warns Some Food Manufacturers About Claims

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the FDA sent warnings to 17 different food manufacturers for the prominently displayed claims that appear on their products' packaging. The manufacturers in question include POM, Nestle, Gerber, Dreyer and Diamond Foods, Inc.

You may already know about the FDA warning issued to General Mills last year. The warning, like these, cites concern about product claims that blur the line between the effects of drugs and food. Cheerios was singled out as misleading consumers by indicating that a daily bowl of Cheerios would prevent or treat heart disease. Such a claim, said the FDA, is a drug claim.

Likewise, POM and Diamond Foods were warned about health claims. POM heavily markets the anti-oxidant properties of its juice. Diamond Foods, Inc. was warned about claims on its walnut packaging.

What can you learn from this? Be wary of claims on packaged foods. It is important to keep abreast of the latest nutritional facts, but it is also easy to lose yourself in them. Just because you need omega-3's in your diet doesn't mean that you will benefit from a highly processed food that claims to be infused with omega 3's.

Here's why:

  1. You are paying a premium for any food that is infused with the latest nutritional great. It may not be worth the extra cost.
  2. The food product may be high in the nutrient you desire, but in many cases it will have other, not so healthy ingredients. These ingredients, of course, are not highlighted. For example, many high fiber cereals are very high in sugar, because a high dose of sugar is needed to compensate for the taste of the fiber, which is not pleasing to many.

Find out which whole foods are nutritional power houses. In the case of omega 3's, try to get your nutrients from the source: whether it be salmon, sardines, herring, tuna, almonds, canola oil, olive oil, lettuce, arugula, mustard greens, flax. Of course, packaged foods are not all bad, and we all rely on them. Just tread lightly. Remember that food manufacturers are very good at selling their products, and don't be swayed by hype.

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